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Core Assumptions of Christianity

I'm posting this thread here because this is an attempt at something like CS Lewis' collection of BBC fireside chats, later compiled into a book of essays titled "Mere Christianity", but at a level lower than baseline theology, in which the existence of a deity is considered a prerequisite. I am looking toi define the core moralistic underpinnings of Christianity, whether or not a God exists that orchestrates the universe. I'll break up the argument into a few overarching themes derived from Jewish and Christian writing through the Old and New Testaments, and tradition.

Position 1: The Existence of a Moral Absolute

This position posits the idea that there is a moral absolute that is as persistent as a physical law.

As much as this concept is fought by various factions of both religious and secular philosophy, it seems to me that it is nearly irrefutably true. It is irrefutably true because everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not, believe in a universal moral code... indeed, nobody would dare judge others for their actions if they didn't believe there was a core behavior that was being violated. Many point to the great differences between individual moral code as evidence that such a foundational code exists, but that isn't really my argument here. My point is that everyone's belief struct hinges on a code that they believe is immutable and foundational points to the existence of a core moral code, even if we as human beings haven't sussed out what that is (though I believe we largely have, and will address it here.

The Holocaust was wrong. Most people will agree with this either directly, or indirectly. While on the one hand you have the majority of people who accept that the Holocaust was a fact, and was abominable, probably the next largest contingent of people, largely anti-Semitic, will argue that the Holocaust never happened. In BOTH of those cases there is the underlying assertion that a holocaust is wrong. THere is a small faction of people who accept that the holocaust is a fact, and also support it's goals, but even those people tend to largely remain silent, understanding that even if they believe it to be a moral good, the society at large does not. So, at the core, "The Holocaust was abominable" would appear to be a truth derived from a core, immutable, moral belief.

Position 2: The Sanctity of Life

This position grants that life, the biological definition, is Good.

I have always found arguing this position to be far more difficult than it should be. Unlike most of the positions I'll mention here, this one is proven nearly universally by simple self reflection. "Do you want to die?" is a question that the vast majority of people would answer "No" to. Even if you lack empathy for your fellow humans, the chances are good that you still prefer life over death for yourself. This, I'd argue, is the base foundation of the universal moral belief in life as a moral good. So much of our public discourse revolves, directly or indirectly, around this assumption.

One common debate topic in which this core assumption resides is in the arguments surrounding healthcare. Nobody would argue so strongly for variously assumed better means of delivering healthcare if they didn't have the core belief that protecting life is a common moral good. Where the various sides of these debates breakdown is on assumptions that the opposition would result in less healthcare, and more death than their own preferred methodology.

Setting aside the assumptions surrounding the two positions on the subject of healthcare, that is to say who is right and who is wrong, still shows that neither side is in favor of purposefully killing people, ut they have very different beliefs in what results in more people living and fewer people dying.


Position 3: Freedom and Free Will

This positions argues that humans possess free will, and that free will is a universal moral good.

This position is a bit harder to argue outside of western societies, I find, as the position of the benefits of Free Will are far less assumed or believed in rather large swaths of non-Western culture. I would argue the existence of Free Will is more proven by human behavior in those cultures, however, than in the West. Most migration across the globe happens as an exertion of free will, either fleeing totalitarian states who have no concept of free will, or the voluntary migration to regions of greater opportunity. In fact, the whole concept of opportunity have a baseline assumption of choice.

In the west we have various extreme views of freedom in both directions. Much like the holocaust example above, we are nearly universally opposed to the concept of slavery, though our positions get more differentiated on the more granular expressions of freedom, be it splits on government mandates, or medical autonomy (which will often commingle with positions on the sanctity of life).

But, like life, the majority of people, given the option, will choose more freedom than less freedom, which would indicate a universal understanding of the intrinsic good in freedom.

(more to come later)
 

watsup

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The biggest problem with your assertion is its inherent uncertainty that the imagined super smart neuroscientist can reach a certain prediction. That certainty is in fact an illusion as the system in which they would be predicting is itself chaotic. So your assertion boils down to if they knew everything that influenced everything that influenced me then this smart person could tell me what was going to happen.... but that would require seeing into the future, and a level of omniscience that only a God could hold... at that point I'd have to point out that there are few theists who would assert that an Omniscient God doesn't know what we will do next. So what makes it free will is not that God can't know what we will do next, it's that he lets us choose, even if he knows our choice.

The closest a human can come to that kind of understanding is looking back at a choice in the past, knowing all that transpired to influence the action... but then that is like saying you can predict the score of Sunday's game ... on Monday after it's played.

Well said. Most “determinists” like to look BACKWARDS to try to show that their assumptions are correct, but I truly doubt that a single one of them could accurately depict anything more than perhaps some sort of very generalized action by an individual. Yes, Monday morning quarterbacking is an excellent analogy to the “determinists”.
 

ataraxia

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The biggest problem with your assertion is its inherent uncertainty that the imagined super smart neuroscientist can reach a certain prediction. That certainty is in fact an illusion as the system in which they would be predicting is itself chaotic. So your assertion boils down to if they knew everything that influenced everything that influenced me then this smart person could tell me what was going to happen.... but that would require seeing into the future, and a level of omniscience that only a God could hold... at that point I'd have to point out that there are few theists who would assert that an Omniscient God doesn't know what we will do next. So what makes it free will is not that God can't know what we will do next, it's that he lets us choose, even if he knows our choice.

The closest a human can come to that kind of understanding is looking back at a choice in the past, knowing all that transpired to influence the action... but then that is like saying you can predict the score of Sunday's game ... on Monday after it's played.

I agree that the system is so complex and with so many variables as be chaotic. But no matter how complex and chaotic and therefore unpredictable (beyond just some broad generalities) a system becomes, it does not mean there’s free will in there somewhere.

The weather also has countless variables effecting it, and is complex enough to be a chaotic system. There too, you would have to have the omniscience of a god to know what each atom and molecule is doing at any given second, both here in Earth and in the Sun (not to mention the effect of other stars and galaxies throughout the universe) to be able to make a perfect prediction years into the future. But that does not mean that it is not ultimately determined by all those countless little variables that go into it, and there’s free will in there somehow.
 

ataraxia

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Well said. Most “determinists” like to look BACKWARDS to try to show that their assumptions are correct, but I truly doubt that a single one of them could accurately depict anything more than perhaps some sort of very generalized action by an individual. Yes, Monday morning quarterbacking is an excellent analogy to the “determinists”.

See the post above.
 

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I agree that the system is so complex and with so many variables as be chaotic. But no matter how complex and chaotic and therefore unpredictable (beyond just some broad generalities) a system becomes, it does not mean there’s free will in there somewhere.

But it does, if the system is chaotic and unpredictable, then your choice if the determining factor, and given that it could go multiple ways, it was you agency that directed the event.

In other words, a system without free choice could not be chaotic.

The weather also has countless variables effecting it, and is complex enough to be a chaotic system. There too, you would have to have the omniscience of a god to know what each atom and molecule is doing at any given second, both here in Earth and in the Sun (not to mention the effect of other stars and galaxies throughout the universe) to be able to make a perfect prediction years into the future. But that does not mean that it is not ultimately determined by all those countless little variables that go into it, and there’s free will in there somehow.

Except that the sun doesn't have intelligence and can't decide not to shine.
 

ataraxia

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But it does, if the system is chaotic and unpredictable, then your choice if the determining factor, and given that it could go multiple ways, it was you agency that directed the event.

In other words, a system without free choice could not be chaotic.

Chaos theory has been studied and well developed in all sorts of systems, from structural engineering to weather predictions. It does not mean that these systems have free will.

It seems to me that a forensic psychologist or personality profiler, for example, can predict the behavior of a criminal, where they’re going to go next, and what they are going to do, with just about as much success as a meteorologist can predict the path of a hurricane.

The only difference is that the criminal has the illusion that they have free will. But it is ultimately their genetics, their experiences, their upbringing, etc, that’s really pulling the strings on their actions, and it’s the study of those things which are fruitful to predicting that person’s behaviors. Consciousness itself may just be an epiphenomenon.

 

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Chaos theory has been studied and well developed in all sorts of systems, from structural engineering to weather predictions. It does not mean that these systems have free will.

It seems to me that a forensic psychologist or personality profiler, for example, can predict the behavior of a criminal, where they’re going to go next, and what they are going to do, with just about as much success as a meteorologist can predict the path of a hurricane.

The only difference is that the criminal has the illusion that they have free will. But it is ultimately their genetics, their experiences, their upbringing, etc, that’s really pulling the strings on their actions, and it’s the study of those things which are fruitful to predicting that person’s behaviors. Consciousness itself may just be an epiphenomenon.



That all depends upon the definition of free will. I have looked at a number of them, and it all seems to come down to the word "choice" where the choice is not ABSOLUTELY dictated by some other event. For instance, free will does not determine whether we become ill or die, but it can sometimes determine the manner in which we approach these negative events. The CHOICES available in free will can also be narrowed by outside circumstances, but if there remains a choice of some sort, then free will is at work. A lessening of the number of choices, in a dictatorship for instance, is only the only that, the lessening of the number of choices. A person would still have the free will to pick among those very limited choices. Nelson Mandela had the choice of either keeping quiet about apartheid in South Africa or going to jail. Limited choices, but choices nonetheless. Unlike most others, the choice he selected was based on personal courage and he did indeed end up in jail for decades, and yet won out in the end.
I find it hard to believe that you think that the words written above at the time they were written were the only possible words that you could have written and the only possible time that you could have written them, and that it was all predetermined at the moment that you came a-screaming out of your mother's womb, and that every single one of the hundreds of perhaps millions of decisions, big and small, that you have made over numerous decades were the only possible ones that you could have made and, once again, were all determined at the moment of birth.
Yes, genetics and past and present experiences will HELP to determine your choices, but in the end, it is still your free will that will make the final determination.
 

ataraxia

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That all depends upon the definition of free will. I have looked at a number of them, and it all seems to come down to the word "choice" where the choice is not ABSOLUTELY dictated by some other event. For instance, free will does not determine whether we become ill or die, but it can sometimes determine the manner in which we approach these negative events. The CHOICES available in free will can also be narrowed by outside circumstances, but if there remains a choice of some sort, then free will is at work. A lessening of the number of choices, in a dictatorship for instance, is only the only that, the lessening of the number of choices. A person would still have the free will to pick among those very limited choices. Nelson Mandela had the choice of either keeping quiet about apartheid in South Africa or going to jail. Limited choices, but choices nonetheless. Unlike most others, the choice he selected was based on personal courage and he did indeed end up in jail for decades, and yet won out in the end.
I find it hard to believe that you think that the words written above at the time they were written were the only possible words that you could have written and the only possible time that you could have written them, and that it was all predetermined at the moment that you came a-screaming out of your mother's womb, and that every single one of the hundreds of perhaps millions of decisions, big and small, that you have made over numerous decades were the only possible ones that you could have made and, once again, were all determined at the moment of birth.
Yes, genetics and past and present experiences will HELP to determine your choices, but in the end, it is still your free will that will make the final determination.

It just seems that the more we know about someone: their genetics, their history, their background, their environment, etc.,… The more we seem to be able to predict what they are going to do under any given circumstances. I’m not sure why we cannot just keep extending that line to reach the conclusion that if we can theoretically know everything there is to know about that person, then we should be able to predict perfectly what they will do. It seems like a reasonable line of logic. The appearance of free will then only be an illusion for them, and just the unpredictability on our part because we just don’t know everything about them yet.
 

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I'm posting this thread here because this is an attempt at something like CS Lewis' collection of BBC fireside chats, later compiled into a book of essays titled "Mere Christianity", but at a level lower than baseline theology, in which the existence of a deity is considered a prerequisite. I am looking toi define the core moralistic underpinnings of Christianity, whether or not a God exists that orchestrates the universe. I'll break up the argument into a few overarching themes derived from Jewish and Christian writing through the Old and New Testaments, and tradition.

Position 1: The Existence of a Moral Absolute

This position posits the idea that there is a moral absolute that is as persistent as a physical law.

I would argue that the standard of morality is perfection as exhibited by the nature of God.

Position 2: The Sanctity of Life

This position grants that life, the biological definition, is Good.

I would argue that all life is created by God for His purposes and is good in His eyes despite being infected with the disease of sin. I believe all life will be cleansed and returned to God's possession for all eternity.

Position 3: Freedom and Free Will

This positions argues that humans possess free will, and that free will is a universal moral good.

I would argue that free will is self will and leads to sin. There is only one will that matters, God's will. Free will is designed to be surrendered and laid at the feet of the throne. "Thy will be done, not mine"
 

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I would argue that the standard of morality is perfection as exhibited by the nature of God.



I would argue that all life is created by God for His purposes and is good in His eyes despite being infected with the disease of sin. I believe all life will be cleansed and returned to God's possession for all eternity.



I would argue that free will is self will and leads to sin. There is only one will that matters, God's will. Free will is designed to be surrendered and laid at the feet of the throne. "Thy will be done, not mine"

In other words, you wpold argue based on myths and superstitions, just like all those who “believe” in a God without the slightest bit of objective, reality-based evidence.
 

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In other words, you wpold argue based on myths and superstitions, just like all those who “believe” in a God without the slightest bit of objective, reality-based evidence.

Just because you've not seen first hand evidence doesn't mean that others have not. It simply means that you haven't seen it.

I've seen the evidence, and further, that evidence has been imparted to me in a far deeper manner. I have no desire to convince you or anyone of that, I'm simply stating what I know to be true... and I think that's the part most people misunderstand, including Christians.

What I mean is this: a non-believer will say "convince me" and the Christian says "I can do that" and starts quoting scripture. What both parties don't understand is that only God can impart that knowledge of faith. IOW, only God himself can convince you He exists.

I can't do it. the Bible can't do it. No preacher can do it. God reveals himself to whom he pleases. Eventiually He will reveal himself to all. At that time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Trust me, you will not be left out. No one will be left out.
 

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Just because you've not seen first hand evidence doesn't mean that others have not. It simply means that you haven't seen it.

I've seen the evidence, and further, that evidence has been imparted to me in a far deeper manner. I have no desire to convince you or anyone of that, I'm simply stating what I know to be true... and I think that's the part most people misunderstand, including Christians.

What I mean is this: a non-believer will say "convince me" and the Christian says "I can do that" and starts quoting scripture. What both parties don't understand is that only God can impart that knowledge of faith. IOW, only God himself can convince you He exists.

I can't do it. the Bible can't do it. No preacher can do it. God reveals himself to whom he pleases. Eventiually He will reveal himself to all. At that time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Trust me, you will not be left out. No one will be left out.
You'd better hope God has a GREAT sense of humor, once He figures out your user name here.
 

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Just because you've not seen first hand evidence doesn't mean that others have not. It simply means that you haven't seen it.

I've seen the evidence, and further, that evidence has been imparted to me in a far deeper manner. I have no desire to convince you or anyone of that, I'm simply stating what I know to be true... and I think that's the part most people misunderstand, including Christians.

What I mean is this: a non-believer will say "convince me" and the Christian says "I can do that" and starts quoting scripture. What both parties don't understand is that only God can impart that knowledge of faith. IOW, only God himself can convince you He exists.

I can't do it. the Bible can't do it. No preacher can do it. God reveals himself to whom he pleases. Eventiually He will reveal himself to all. At that time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Trust me, you will not be left out. No one will be left out.

More myth. *YAWN*
And witnessing. *YAWN*
 

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More myth. *YAWN*
And witnessing. *YAWN*

I love it when someone who desperately cares, desperately pretends that they don't care.

You're going to spend eternity with God regardless of your thoughts, opinions, or yawns.

That's how awesome God's love, grace, and mercy is.
 

watsup

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I love it when someone who desperately cares, desperately pretends that they don't care.

You're going to spend eternity with God regardless of your thoughts, opinions, or yawns.

That's how awesome God's love, grace, and mercy is.

See my responses in post #62. Thank you in advance.
 
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