Is "proof" beyond faith?

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by amishrockstar, Mar 15, 2017.

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  1. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Ah. I didn't understand that "that" was the argument. In that case, you "still" have all your work ahead of you.

    "No," a typical western atheist would not "assume unseen qualities in a person" by assuming that person has a "mind." You would have to demonstrate that "mind" is immaterial first, but I doubt you'd get much help from neuroscientists who can pinpoint areas in the brain that control emotions, thoughts, etc.

    At the very least, we can demonstrate that "mind" is physical. But you cannot demonstrate (apart from analogy) that mind is immaterial.

    Even if you could demonstrate or prove that "mind" is immaterial, it still doesn't prove a spirit exists, and it still wouldn't prove God exists.

    Can you:
    1) Prove or demonstrate that "mind" is immaterial (apart from anaolgy and metaphor)?

    2) Prove "spirit" exists, apart from analogy and metaphor (eg "...the spirit is like the wind...")?

    Again, for a Christian, these things are assumed and taken on "faith," but if you're trying to offer proof or evidence for such immaterial entities, you'll come up short because we have no reliable "test" or "mechanism" to demonstrate something like a spirit existing.

    Ultimately, an atheist does not have to "believe in unseen realities" in the way that you mean them. They do believe in unseen phenomena, such as someone on the other end of the cellphone and that you experience feelings that they cannot directly see, but this, again, is inline with our experience of interacting with the physical world and other humans. It does not prove that "minds" are immaterial or that spirits exist.
  2. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Is this off topic? I don't think so. Tell me if you think I am off topic.

    I think the atheist's problems are even more basic than most realize. What, in the atheist's worldview, gives him the confidence to assume that his reasoning ability is reliable? After all, we are just matter in motion, the chance result of random chemicals reacting, well, just reacting. Upon what foundation does he base his "belief" that his mind is not just playing tricks on him? He can't help but think what he thinks. If he ever stopped to think about his position--his most basic assumptions, he would quickly spiral into extreme metaphysical distress.

    I assume many will say that I am being ridiculous here. Everyone knows that we have valid reasoning abilities. Don't they? I agree that the atheist can reason correctly for the most part. But what reason can he give for his assumptions? To claim that he has demonstrated repeatedly that his mind is a working just fine is clearly circular reasoning.

    Here's the question: What kind of universe would provide assurance for him that he can, in fact, think valid thoughts? In a chance universe, the mind is just thinking whatever the interaction of certain chemicals determines. Actually, he can't even know that. But by assuming we live in an orderly, logical, created universe the problem is solved.

    Let's pause for a moment and review what the atheist knows. Yes, I said knows for certain at the deepest level. No faith needed. See my post #18 for an overview of what all men know.

    I have concluded that the atheist is a kind of closet Christian. Well, maybe not a Christian, but an informed knower of the true God. He can think valid thoughts because he is what God created him to be. A man made in God's image with the abilities to reason correctly, at least up to a point. (again I refer you to post #18)

    Proverbs 1:7a (KJV)
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge...
  3. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Again, I've heard loads of atheist debates and shows, and one answer that comes to mind is that atheists have confidence in their reasoning ability because of it's ability to keep them alive (it's just that simple). In other words, they see things like cause and effect, and they realize, for example, that they ought not to drive against traffic. There are a myriad of examples along this line, but I think the point is made: The atheist is still alive and his/her "reason" produces favorable results in the world, so it's "experience" and "nature" that give him/her confidence. If life were otherwise, he/she would chuck reason out the window. It's experiential & practical.

    These questions remind me of what atheists like Matt Dillahunty have asked: How did you determine which super-powerful entity (God or Satan) is the "good" one and which is the "bad" one? If Satan really is able to influence and deceive people, how do you know you're not deceived by Satan at this moment? Is it possible? Could you ever know with 100% certainty? How can you trust your own reasoning abilities, especially if you believe miracles and the supernatural are possible?

    Just a quick note: Atheists like Dawkins have said many, many times that evolution is not simply based on "chance." To say that they believe in a purely chance universe is a false characterization of their position, and I don't think it's helpful in dialogue with them.
  4. rickclayfan

    rickclayfan Puritan Board Freshman

    R.L. Dabney has a good chapter on this in his book The Sensualistic Philosophy called "Spirituality of the Mind." Here's a summary of that chapter:
  5. KeithW

    KeithW Puritan Board Freshman

    I know the conversation has gone beyond the original question, but the first sentence of the original question demonstrates makes assumptions about what can be argued and that this type of argumentation can achieve a goal.

    I just listened to a recent podcast which is a basic introduction to the difference between evidentialism (proofs and evidence) and presuppositionalism and how this difference is applicable to the Bible. I think it might be applicable to this thread.
    "Do Atheists Exist? w/ Sye Ten Bruggencate"
  6. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    In logical terms, you could state that each person has a priori -- a willingness to accept as true presuppositions upon which an argument may be based.
  7. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    That is the point; and when it is applied to the atheist's view you will start to level the field so far as burden of proof is concerned. The test of rationality does not only apply to the Christian; it applies to the atheist as well.
  8. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Your statement presupposes the fact you are denying. Matter does not demonstrate anything. The power of demonstration proves the mind is immaterial.
  9. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I am sure the atheist does not see "truth." It is a fair indication that he is escaping from the tests of rationality if he refuses to believe "truth."
  10. LilyG

    LilyG Puritan Board Freshman

    Exactly what I was thinking. Covenantal apologetics.
  11. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    I can no longer watch Sye Ten after his debate with Matt Dillahunty. If you've seen that debate, you might know why.

  12. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm not sure I follow.
    What is the point from what I wrote? Is it that there's no way to prove a spirit exists?

    The burden of proof is always on the one making the claim. I don't understand what "leveling the playing field" is about when it comes to the burden of proof. You either have the burden of proof or you don't.
  13. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Again, I don't follow.
    How, exactly, does "demonstration" prove the mind is immaterial?

    From the atheist's point of view, they would probably say we use our physical brains to reason (I assume most Christians would too). If our physical brains are what we use to form arguments and understand things, how is that then "immaterial," and what does the venn diagram look like for "brain" and "mind" (ie how are they similar and different in your mind)? Do we not do anything with our physical brains?
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It that a principle that arises from matter? Having studied nuclear engineering, I'm not aware of any physical particle from which that principle emerges.
  15. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    What principle are you using that, in all circumstances, you must answer a fool according to his folly?

    You seem to be under the illusion in this thread that we are required to answer every skeptic's objection according to the parameters of what they will accept. Yes, an atheist has a "story" about how his thinking (and even math or logic) is merely the product of a physical brain thinking. So what?

    I'm fascinated by most atheists I hear (including Matt Dillihanty) as to ad hoc and inconsistent they are. Most are pragmatists. They use reason to criticize others but then give no basis in reason for the faculties of reason they employ. Just yesterday, the CEO of the British humanist society was critical of the idea of grounding reason or the study of history in anything other than "it works". If it ceases to "work" then it is discarded.

    Thus, at the foundation of any atheistic foundation is an irrational footing and they employ logic and other tools but when asked to give account for them they simply mock the one who asks for them to give account as a question that needs no answer. Van Til notes that the atheist must stand on God's lap in order to slap Him in the face.

    Thus, I will give answers to those who ask me (this is what we are commanded to do) but nowhere are we commanded in Scripture to "prove" to the skeptic that God exists. I assume, when you joined this board, you confessed to Reformed principles and fundamental to Reformed theology - the prologomena - is the Creator/creature distinction. We do not confess that we are independent minds discovering facts of the universe that are independent of the God that created them and then coming to our own conclusion about God (or gods) on the basis of our reason. The Scriptures do not teach that "...the heavens probably declare the glory of God..." and the Scriptures also teach that God has made Himself manifest to all His creatures.

    Do you believe the Scriptures or do you agree with the atheists who make claims about the basis of logic and reason? Your responses so far would indicate that it's just too embarrassing for you to actually have to answer an atheist that your ability to think owes to the fact that you were created in God's image. He'll mock you that your mythology is no different than that of belief in Thor. Will you agree with him simply because he mocks? Will you be ashamed simply because you can offer no argument that he and his peers will respect? Perhaps it is because you want their respect that you are ashamed or embarrassed?
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  16. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    It's the last phrase, "I assume most Christians would too," that I for one take issue with. I am a Christian, although I may not be "most" Christians."

    Here is a thumbnail on my present opinion of thought:

    It seems to me that we can say that thought happens in the body, especially in (and around) the brain. The thoughts themselves are an immaterial “field” around the brain, not so much as “in” the brain. Thoughts are more like gravity and magnetism than like the computations of a computer. Thought has no matter or particles emanating from it. Is not thought “the” thing in us created most in the image of God who is Himself a pure Spirit.

    Someone I read recently said, "Ontologically, thought is in the brain, epistemologically, it is not."
  17. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    Consciousness, thoughts, and minds are hard enough question topics for neuroscientists, and since I doubt there are many specialists in that field on this forum, I'm sure we'll all have different views on this topic. You said that thought happens in and around the brain, and then you said that thoughts are "around" the brain, not so much in it. It's like you're saying thoughts are a product of physical phenomena; however, you can't just leave it at that (i.e. you need to make them somehow distinct from the body and brain). It's almost as if you're wanting to make thoughts into something that floats around a person's skull. When I have a thought of a beach on an island, is that thought happening within my body/brain, or is that thought sitting 2 inches above my skull?

    Scientist have shown that by damaging portions of a brain, a person's attitude, emotions, and way of thinking can be altered. Thoughts are a bit more complicated than simply saying: Show me the neuron for a thought about a beach on an island. The brain is a complicated network, which I'm sure you'd agree with.

    Even though we talk about thoughts being "abstract" and immaterial, they are produced by physical properties and relationships, and I see no reason to believe they exist 2 inches above my skull. As far as we can demonstrate, all our thoughts are generated and exist "within" each of our bodies.
  18. amishrockstar

    amishrockstar Puritan Board Freshman

    I would assume that "neuroscience" would be a better discipline to answer questions of neurons in the brain. There isn't just a single "physical particle" that carries around the thought "red" in a person's mind.

    Principles, like the laws of logic, are descriptive in nature. They are simply ways that we describe and understand things. They aren't immaterial entities floating around in space somewhere.

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by "matter." If you mean "humans," which are made of matter (i.e. take up space in the world), then, "yes," matter (i.e. humans) give rise to these principles as we discover them through study, argumentation, and observation. If you don't mean "humans," then I don't understand the question.

    If you argue that infant baptism is in the Bible, then it's primarily up to you to "prove" that. It's not up to me to disprove that. The same thing with leprechauns: If you're going to claim they exist, it's up to you to show they exist. If the burden of proof is not on the one making the claim, then anything can be claimed without any checks and balances. "Yes," humans (i.e. matter) have figured these things out.
  19. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    The number of claims you have made without "proving" them as principles by which I (and others) must abide keeps rising.

    Here is my claim: you're a poser. You're not really a Christian but an atheist posing as a Christian on a Reformed site.

    You will need to prove to me that you are actually Reformed in your orthodoxy. Until that point, enjoy your interactions with your fellow atheists.
  20. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    According to your atheist his point of view is produced by physical causes. This means he believes what he must believe by physical necessity. The facts of the case have no bearing on what he believes, according to his beliefs. Conversely, the Christian's beliefs would be just as valid as his own because the Christian would believe by the same necessity of nature, according to the atheist's point of view. He has thus left himself without any "reason" for his atheism. Which brings us to the obvious conclusion that his point of view must be dependent on his self-refuting faith.

    Again, practically speaking, here you are writing to other minds which you believe to exist. You might have concluded that these other minds are nothing more than brains being moved by electrical impulses. But your whole method of reasoning proves that you regarded them as spiritual objects. You did not use electrical impulses to get your point across to them. You used "reasons."
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017
  21. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Just to put the whole mind/brain stuff to rest for the moment; we have fully functioning minds when our immaterial souls go to heaven after the body dies. Biblically, there is no reason to restrict thinking to the physical brain. Scripture is clear that we are not zombies or comatose during the intermediate state, but think and worship and communicate without our bodies. The brain most likely functions as an organ of communication between the immaterial soul and the physical body.

    Regarding atheists living by faith, it's not that hard to grasp philosophically. Yes, they claim to have no faith in God, but they can only do so by putting their trust in other things like reason or intuition. An absence of belief in God actually means you believe in something else, some other worldview which you assume in order to make the world coherent and meaningful. You never live in a philosophical vacuum. If you do not worship the Creator, you will worship the creature one way or another.

    For the atheist, one creature/idol he worships is his own reason. If it doesn't appear rational to him, then it can't be rational at all. The idea of infinite wisdom and knowledge which surpasses his finite reason are not allowed. So the challenge is to help the atheist see that his doubt is not really an absence of faith but an alternate faith in something else, and a faith which he cannot defend even by his own criteria.
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