The Reason for God

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Robear wrote:
Where did I say that we should ask for things under the condition that we have no belief it will be granted?

Either you believe God will do as He pleases, or you believe he'll answer your prayer. If the former, why ask? If the latter, aren't you trying to change the world to fit your desires? I'm not being clever here - even elements of Christianity show that religion has as one of it's purposes advantaging the adherent in the world, just like science and magic. Prayer is a big selling point of Christianity; so much so that it's entered the vernacular ("...and my prayers were answered, I got a bonus that helped me cover the bill!").

If you think prayer is a big "selling point" of Christianity, you are missing the point of the very chapter we are on. The Bible says that we are all imperfect and headed for eternal death. Jesus has provided an escape from that inevitability through His sacrificial death on the cross. Prayer is great, but without that act of redemption we are all proverbially screwed. The Gospel(Christ's act of redemption) is the one and only "selling point" of Christianity.

Back to the original issue of either you believe God will do as He pleases, or you believe he'll answer your prayer. My 6 year old son asked for the new Super Mario Bros. Wii for Christmas, and I have gladly tracked one down and Santa should be delivering it sometime early Christmas morning. Now if my son asks for an operational chainsaw, it is in both his and my interest to decline that request. Does that mean he should not ask for anything for Christmas? No. God wants to give us lots of good things. Many times He is just waiting for us to ask, but not everything we think would be good for us is actually good.

I think what Robear is trying to say is: when you ask, you are trying to exert control over the world. You just said that God won't do it unless you ask, so the asking is important, and asking for someone more powerful than you to change the world isn't much different than just changing it yourself. It's still a method of trying exert control over your environment.

Yes. The point upon which the rest of the chapter turns is that science, like magic, is an attempt to shape the world to our needs and desires, but supposedly religion is not. That flies in the face of the role of religion historically, and is contradicted by elements of Christian belief as well.

That's not a good logical grounding. I understand your *theological* argument above, but that's not the *logical* argument Keller tries to establish. He uses false premises in making his argument and that matters, because the book was presented as giving a view of religion from the viewpoint of *reason*. (As CS Lewis intended, as well.) So far, his logic is failing simple tests that are part of first year studies, and yet Keller is certainly well trained enough to know better.

Robear, you are referencing a disconnect that, I feel many Christians ignore entirely. And which I feel has seriously been misinterpreted. The prophet/character, Jesus, was a very pragmatic teacher. Teach a man to fish, any miracle I perform you can also do, etc. A lot of Christians lose that fact in the tall tales.

Robear wrote:

Yes. The point upon which the rest of the chapter turns is that science, like magic, is an attempt to shape the world to our needs and desires, but supposedly religion is not. That flies in the face of the role of religion historically, and is contradicted by elements of Christian belief as well.

That's not a good logical grounding. I understand your *theological* argument above, but that's not the *logical* argument Keller tries to establish. He uses false premises in making his argument and that matters, because the book was presented as giving a view of religion from the viewpoint of *reason*. (As CS Lewis intended, as well.) So far, his logic is failing simple tests that are part of first year studies, and yet Keller is certainly well trained enough to know better.

I'm not sure Keller is arguing that religion is not attempting to shape the world to our needs and desires...

He sets up a clear dichotomy between magic/science, which attempt to fit the world to our desires, and Christianity, which advises us to fit ourselves to the world (in his view). Right? From his perspective, the thing that makes "religion" better than magic or science is that distinction.

Is Keller ever wrong in this book? If not, this isn't really a discussion, but an attack/defense situation. I'm happy to point out areas where I agree with his points, but I have yet to see you disagree; if I missed that, my apologies. I'd rather the dynamic not be one of conflict.

Robear wrote:

He sets up a clear dichotomy between magic/science, which attempt to fit the world to our desires, and Christianity, which advises us to fit ourselves to the world (in his view). Right? From his perspective, the thing that makes "religion" better than magic or science is that distinction.

Is Keller ever wrong in this book? If not, this isn't really a discussion, but an attack/defense situation. I'm happy to point out areas where I agree with his points, but I have yet to see you disagree
; if I missed that, my apologies. I'd rather the dynamic not be one of conflict.

It's ironic that you would bring this up right before we start chapter 6.

I have to say I'm disappointed.

You are disappointed that I disagree with some things Keller says in chapter six?

You didn't say that, so how could I know? I was disappointed that you didn't seem to answer the objections. Actually, I agree with most of chapter six, having just read it. He's a little pat with his assertions, taking very narrow views and expanding them out, but I think the message is good.

What is disappointing is that the book deals poorly (if at all) with some of the objections I have in the areas discussed, mostly by virtue of getting the facts wrong. And seeing the constant mischaracterization of some positions and avoidance of others is actually making me less confident that I can trust Pastor Keller. Put another way, there's nothing in here yet that I feel I have to struggle with, in the first five chapters. Chapter six's theme I've pulled out here and with friends who are totally anti-evolution, as a middle ground, with little success.

But there's nothing in here so far that convinces me that Christianity is supportable on the grounds of reason, as the title implies. I don't assume that can't be done; I've seen one really good shot (Spinoza). But Keller's arguments are on the whole poorly formed and incomplete.

I've read ahead some and it's interesting that he pulls out Plantinga and his modified Foundationalism. For one thing, Plantinga does hold that religion is a basic belief (a belief which is not based on any other belief and does not reference any other belief), but he also holds that *atheism* is a basic belief as well. Plantinga also makes no claims that basic beliefs must be true or even supported by evidence.

It seems to me that this actually contradicts Keller's thesis, that atheism is based on other beliefs that are somehow not noticed by the atheist until the helpful theist points them out. And it does damage to the unspoken belief of Keller's that basic beliefs are better than other beliefs, and necessarily true, because Plantinga, despite his clear Christian advocacy, makes neither claim in his theories, that I've seen.

I'll need to reread it, but it's odd to see Keller pull out Plantinga, although I guess he's the only game in town if you want to do "rational" theism while walling out atheists and doubters. Keller also makes claims about the current state of rationalism and similar philosophies that seem to be a stretch at best. I don't see any sign that Plantinga's Foundationalism is now the dominant form of thought about beliefs and reality.

He also claims that the "traditional view" of Bible scholarship is also in serious decline, but he can't provide us with a lot of evidence because, you know, that's not what the book is about. I think he's overstating the case for literalism. Also, his criteria for credulous acceptance of the Four Gospels as literally true have large gaps in them (for example, they legitimize the founding documents of every other religion to the same degree as Christianity, as well as Christian documents later thrown out as illegitimate.) He also does not deal with contradictions between the different accounts.

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