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Can We "reason" Our Way To The Truth?


Autumn girl
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My husband met with our Pastor a few days ago to tell him about our very serious doubts about Christianity. He was saddened and told my husband that the devil is a liar and a deceiver, and that if we read lots of things that seem to debunk Christianity then it will start to ring true to us. He warned that is a pitfall of living in the information age. My thought is, if Christianity is true, then shouldn't it stand up to scrutiny?

 

We received a package today and upon opening it discovered that our Pastor bought a book from amazon.com and had it shipped to us. It is called "The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism", by Timothy Keller. I read some of it this afternoon and found it interesting that he included quotes from Richard Dawkins and referred to Sam Harris. Here's a review I just read on amazon about the book:

 

 

 

I was raised a Christian, and was taught the religion from a very young age. I renounced it around age 13. I spent the rest of my life searching for a reasonable explanation for the universe. I studied physics and modern science. Learned about how the world is observed to work. Learned about how we observe facts and draw conclusions based upon them. Learned about the limits of human explanation. I also studied philosophy. Lots of it. From Plato to Descartes to Camus, I read all of what the great minds had to say about our existence. Our morality. Where it all came from. What is right and wrong.

 

Long story short: No one knows. If you spend your life looking for the answers, you quickly find that no one has them. We are all equally ignorant, stumbling around the world trying to make sense of it always coming up empty handed.

 

You learn that science is an imperfect construction that does well for describing the orbits of planets or the evolution of a species but falls on its face when trying to explain the emergence of morality. You learn that reason is a tool of the "human consciousness", a term which philosophers have been unable to adequately define, and its origins are equally unknown. You learn that despite all this, the entire universe is massive, beautifully choreographed, system that is evidenced at every scale, from skin cell to solar system.

This was my world view when I picked up this book: An atheist looking at a wonderfully complex world, but disappointed in our inability to understand it.

 

What this book does is clearly lay out what Christianity is and how it answers some of the major questions people in our world have. It attempts to prove that Christianity is not the irrational dogma that people make it out to be, instead it is a reasonable and positive world view.

 

If I can give advice to someone who is reading this book, or any book about atheism or Christianity, it's keep an open mind. You will only get out of this or any other book what you go into it looking for. If you go into it with a closed mind, you should spend your money on something different. Get other books, try something by Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, or Camus (to get an accurate view, get and read all of them).

 

What interesting is the bible already addressed this: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7NIV.

 

You can never reason your way to god or truth. I went looking for it in reason and science and found the huge hole that they could not fill. After reading this book I saw how faith in Christ fills that hole completely.

 

 

 

What I'm interested in is the, "Long story short: No one knows", and "You can never reason your way to god or truth" part of this review. This goes back to what my friend told me, which was essentially that searching for the truth is an exercise in fruitlessness. It was all about faith, for her (and she's a smart woman, so it was hard for me to hear her say that).

 

I'm trying to learn about Christianity from all angles, and have also added evolution into the mix. What is very annoying and disheartening is when I read or watch things that contradict each other. Who do I believe? This is quite a difficult task, and one in which so much depends.

 

I'd appreciate it if anyone could talk some sense into me right now, because I'm feeling like maybe there isn't a way to "reason" my way to the truth.

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"Long story short: No one knows"

I think there is much we do not yet understand. In my opinion this ignorance is a product of our youth. Civilization is around 10,000 years old or so. And sometimes it seems to me that we've only begun to frame some questions in ways that makes sense. We've gained a great deal of perspective over the last 400 years or so. Perhaps the next 50 years will bring a new conceptual revolution.

 

"You can never reason your way to god or truth"

Reason is a critical part of understanding. If explicit understanding is involved then reason will be employed.

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"You can never reason your way to god or truth"

 

Broadly I would agree with that - Aristotle used reason to come to his conclusions about the way the universe is - he was wrong. I'm sure if God wanted to he could make sure that he was comletely inaccessible to reason - he could construct the universe in such a way that it gives the illusion that no God is required to create it - as seems to be the case..

 

My reason tells me that (from the efforts of many wise human beings over the course of many generations) that the universe is extremely large (!) billions upon billions of galaxies containing trillions of stars - is ~15 billion years old, that all life on earth has evolved from single-celled organisms that existed 3 billion years ago. That there have been several species of Humans - Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Neanderthals etc.

 

Did a God (if there is one) go to all that trouble to create mankind so that he could condemn the majority of them to Hell for all eternity - which would make the entire history of the universe an infinitesimal time in comparison. Does this mean that all the hunter-gatherers that existed also go to hell? - or does it only apply to those of us who live in the modern (post stone -age) era? (dispensationalism?)

 

My reason tells me that religions are man-made constructs

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My thought is, if Christianity is true, then shouldn't it stand up to scrutiny?

Bingo.

 

It doesn't stand up to critical examination at all. That's why some of the most staunch atheists are former pastors and Biblical scholars.

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My thought is, if Christianity is true, then shouldn't it stand up to scrutiny?

 

When you look at slavery, the treatment of women, rape and killing anytime you feel like it, the desert religions fail. As well they do in many other areas.

 

In the end, it has to be you that decides if you can believe it or not. The people on both sides will raise their banner that says "pick me!"

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My thought is, if Christianity is true, then shouldn't it stand up to scrutiny?

 

If I were your pastor, I would reply that perhaps it is us who fails to stand up to scrutiny.

 

What I'm interested in is the, "Long story short: No one knows", and "You can never reason your way to god or truth" part of this review. This goes back to what my friend told me, which was essentially that searching for the truth is an exercise in fruitlessness. It was all about faith, for her (and she's a smart woman, so it was hard for me to hear her say that).

 

I think it is true that we cannot reason our way to God, or most (maybe any...) Truth. We can't really arrive. Anyone who says they have will be surprised when life delivers them another challenge. Even the faithful experience doubt, right? We make a decision about what methods and authorities and thought processes we are going to trust based on a range of characteristics (moral, procedural, practical, etc) that we find acceptable...that ring true.

 

But I disagree that searching for truth is an exercise in fruitlessness. Just because one will probably never arrive, doesn't mean that all parts of the journey are meaningless. In fact, searching for some kind of truth is ripe with meaning. It is a perfectly valid way to experience life!

 

For me, I am trying to orient my journey toward truth with the belief that I will probably never arrive at any great Truth. When I am at peace with that, the journey--and the small, personal truths that come with it-- is such a pleasure.

 

Phanta

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Don't lose sight of the story of xtianity:

 

An all knowing, all powerful being speaks the world into existence and then sets up a trap whereby humans will do exactly what he tells them not to (and he is all knowing so he knew this). Then, the only plan he can come up with (even though he is all powerful) is blood atonement and waits through several thousand years of animal sacrifices to him before he comes to earth himself as a human who is also his own father to have himself sacrificed to himself to appease his own anger at the humans who he set up and knew would disobey in the first place.

 

Nothing can make the overall story arch of xtianity make any sense whatsoever, and we oftentimes get lost in all the apologetics, ritual, history, and popularity of the religion. Just remember how silly the whole idea is at its most basic levels.

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"Long Story Short: No one knows."

 

I ask the question, "Knows what?" The reviewer seemed to be looking for "a reasonable explanation for the universe."

 

That's pretty vague. The writer would have to clarify what exactly he means by that.

 

He seems to want to employ a huge argument from silence. Humanity does not have "the truth," so the answer must be "God."

 

That's one big huge fallacy.

 

It could be there is no one big unifying "Truth." Maybe there are just a lot of interacting truths. But, if there is a Truth, it has to have more explanatory, predictive and unifying power than just "God [the one in the OT and NT scriptures ] did it." In most areas, if god is given as the answer to a question about the physical world, that answer is usually overridden eventually by science.

 

"You can never reason your way to god or truth."

 

Never is a big word. I agree that you PROBABLY will never reason your way to god in the OT/NT deity sense. But truth as "a reasonable explanation for the universe?" Give us a few more millenia. We just may.

 

The reader seems to imply that if you don't agree with the conclusions of the Keller book, you are closed minded. It's strange that he sees those other authors as the place to go if you are a closed minded reader. I think you should approach every work with an open mind. What a strange thing to say!

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God gave us reasoning, thinking brains, made us smart enough to question and find answers, then made it a sin to use said brains? Doesn't seem godlike at all

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In reasoning my way out of christianity, the following self conversation ensued.

 

1) god is supposedly all knowing and loving

 

2) people have freewill

 

3) if god is all knowing and loving why would he create people with freewill to live their life as they choose and then condemn them to hell because they didn't choose him.

 

4) god is either not all knowing or not all loving or both.

 

the addendum I added much later was "why would get only one shot at life?"

 

thus I reasoned myself out of the church. With the "truth" that god doesn't exsist as explained in most chrisitan doctrine.

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I like what Legion touched on in his post, about how we can't reason our way to God. What he (the author) is saying is that there are two forms or ways to acquire knowledge, Reason and Faith. A good example of reason would be The Scientific Method. But with faith, how do these people define it? What is it? Are there different modes or methods of faith? What about people that have faith in other god/s? What has faith accomplished vs reason? Will faith lead me to some higher understanding of something? I tried having faith, just like many people here, we all had faith. We all wanted it to be true. We all wanted what we devoted our lives, money, family and thoughts around to be true. It's interesting how these people will disparage reason so quickly, and then turn around and say how xtianity is just so reasonable... Wendytwitch.gif

 

On top of that, I'm so sick of people saying how "science" just can't fill that hole in their lives, that only Christ can "fill" that hole...What hole? This statement, to me, just screams I am attempting to band aid the problems in my life with faith in a deity, and that I won't actually deal with anything, because I know it all gets better in the next life.

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I think if there were a god, and he left resonable evidence of his/her/its existance, then one could reason his or her way to believing in god. If there is a god, he/she/it did not leave this evidence, which would tell me that he/she/it, does't care if we worship/believe. Truth on the other hand, I think we can reason. I would argue that it is reason that leads us there. The trick is that we need the right information. We understand the astonomy of our solar system very well. We can predict eclipses, commets, etc. with a great deal of accuracy. We are only beginning to form theories concerning the origins of the universe. As one can imagine, the information required for this is astronomical. We are in our infancy in terms of this knowledge.

 

There is truth. We don't always have the information to get at the whole truth, but it exists. Our reasoning may lead us in directions of thought that are wrong, but that doesn't mean we won't ever correct those mistakes. If we stop reasoning, we most certainly will not.

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What I'm interested in is the, "Long story short: No one knows", and "You can never reason your way to god or truth" part of this review. This goes back to what my friend told me, which was essentially that searching for the truth is an exercise in fruitlessness. It was all about faith, for her (and she's a smart woman, so it was hard for me to hear her say that).

 

Ah the last refuge of the weak argument, faith.

 

If you have faith then evidence is not needed and the purveyors of religion can spew whatever garbage they like and you'll believe it.

 

Don't fall for that crap. Use your brain and tell your feelings to take a hike.

 

You sound like an intelligent person, read the evidence and make up you're own mind.

 

Might I suggest Paul Johnson's book A History of Christianity. It will open your eyes to how Christianity came to be... and not the sanitized version that you get from pastors or the pulpit.

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Thanks for your responses. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Climbing out of this religious hole I've been in my whole life can be exhaustingly confusing sometimes!

 

I tried having faith, just like many people here, we all had faith. We all wanted it to be true. We all wanted what we devoted our lives, money, family and thoughts around to be true. It's interesting how these people will disparage reason so quickly, and then turn around and say how xtianity is just so reasonable... Wendytwitch.gif

 

Yes, I wanted it to be true. I tell you, if someone speaks about Jesus in a way that causes me to remember what I felt/thought about him throughout my life, I can instantly tear up and feel a great swell of emotion of love towards him. For instance, there's a part in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe where Aslan is mentioned for the first or second time and a sort of emotion of curious longing develops within the reader (and I'm sure you all know that Aslan is a symbol of Christ in that story). Well, as I was reading that story to my children and the way C.S. Lewis wrote about Aslan, knowing he was really talking about Jesus, I began to cry. It's that powerful - my emotional response to anything related to the Jesus I thought I knew.

 

Singing worship songs with ridiculously good musicians leading and feeling a tremendous longing to be in heaven with Jesus - to see him, face to face, finally, belting out favorite hymns of mine and being moved to my core with the depth of the lyrics, thinking of the familiar picture I had of me and Jesus sitting down in a garden together, with my head in his lap, while he listened to all of my concerns and trials, comforting me the whole time and sharing his wisdom, believing that he was praying (interceding) for me all the time at the right hand of God, knowing that he knew me better than anyone and still loved and accepted me completely (well, I never fully grasped that one, and never felt that utter acceptance, though I tried and tried). All of these things make leaving Christianity, for me, painful and an experience of loss. I'm sure I'll find my way, but this seems to be an inevitable part of leaving this religion.

 

And, I'd like to add, I have huge gaps of knowledge when it comes to science. I went to Christian school from pre-school through 12th grade, and then went on to get a B.A. at one of our state colleges. I sat in my first secular biology course with three hundred other students and listened to the teacher discuss evolution and the big bang. I raised my hand, thinking that anyone was a fool to believe in evolution, and asked, "What caused the big bang?" I tried to stump the professor. She didn't really answer me, but some students behind me said, "Are you Catholic?" with disdain. I said, "I'm a Christian" (since I was raised that Catholics aren't necessarily Christian). I really thought all these people were just lost.

 

Well, fast forward to this past month and I've found out from some of the world's foremost scientists that there is actually more evidence in support of evolution than there has been for any theory ever postulated before or since the theory of evolution. It could easily be called the "law of evolution" except for the fact that scientists no longer do that, for various reasons, as compared with the 1700's and 1800's (when they did end up calling something a law if there was good enough evidence). So, my assumption (fed by creationists) that evolution is "just" a theory is dead wrong. I'm amazed at how much evidence there is for evolution, but in the book our Pastor just bought us the author makes it seem that evolution is only partly true. I'll try to find the quote and put it in the science vs. religion forum...

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Thanks for your responses. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Climbing out of this religious hole I've been in my whole life can be exhaustingly confusing sometimes!

 

I tried having faith, just like many people here, we all had faith. We all wanted it to be true. We all wanted what we devoted our lives, money, family and thoughts around to be true. It's interesting how these people will disparage reason so quickly, and then turn around and say how xtianity is just so reasonable... Wendytwitch.gif

 

And, I'd like to add, I have huge gaps of knowledge when it comes to science. I went to Christian school from pre-school through 12th grade, and then went on to get a B.A. at one of our state colleges. I sat in my first secular biology course with three hundred other students and listened to the teacher discuss evolution and the big bang. I raised my hand, thinking that anyone was a fool to believe in evolution, and asked, "What caused the big bang?" I tried to stump the professor. She didn't really answer me, but some students behind me said, "Are you Catholic?" with disdain. I said, "I'm a Christian" (since I was raised that Catholics aren't necessarily Christian). I really thought all these people were just lost.

 

Well, fast forward to this past month and I've found out from some of the world's foremost scientists that there is actually more evidence in support of evolution than there has been for any theory ever postulated before or since the theory of evolution. It could easily be called the "law of evolution" except for the fact that scientists no longer do that, for various reasons, as compared with the 1700's and 1800's (when they did end up calling something a law if there was good enough evidence). So, my assumption (fed by creationists) that evolution is "just" a theory is dead wrong. I'm amazed at how much evidence there is for evolution, but in the book our Pastor just bought us the author makes it seem that evolution is only partly true. I'll try to find the quote and put it in the science vs. religion forum...

 

 

That is exactly the process that I have gone through. I alternated between fundi-baptist school and ACE homeschool througout school. It wasnt until I went to college also that I began to look outside the narrow bubble I had been raised in. I took a geology class during college which was one of the stepping stones that have brought me to where I am today. We lived in an area with a great deal of old geologic formations and part of the class was to go out and explore. At the time I still believed in creationism, but the scientific facts caused me to dig deep into the arguments made by creationists. That of course, as many on this site will atest, lead me to realize the shallow argumenents and intillectual dishonesty which makes up those arguments.

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Something can't be both rational and irrational, or nonlogical or logical at the same time. And logic and reason(even when applied badly) are all we have, outside of just emotion. We should be able to understand god through reason, because reason is all we really have. And emotions are more inaccurate then logic and reason, and science, so what do we have if we don't have reason.

 

Faith is a copeout, its saying don't think, but what makes faith more right then reason, nothing as far as I can see.

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You can never reason your way to god or truth.

 

There are two different concepts here. The first is that we can never reason our way to god. The second is that we can never reason our way to truth.

 

As for the first (that we can never reason our way to god). Our human experience to date proves this to be true. And the reason is that there is no evidence that withstands scrutiny that there is any god whatsoever. There being no such evidence, it is impossible to reason our way to a god of any kind. Therefore, from the rational standpoint (that is, from our ability to reason) there being no reasonable evidence of the existence of a god, we cannot say with any certainty that one exists.

 

As for the second (that we can never reason our way to truth). Our human experience to date proves this to be absolutely false. We as human beings have reasoned our way to much truth. A simple but important example: We now know that microscopic organisms (commonly referred to as germs) have been the cause of much human death and suffering throughout human history. Arriving at this truth has allowed us to reason our way to how to fight these germs and save human (and plant and animal) life. For example, when is the last time you were scared of polio because your friends and neighbors were coming down with it? The vast majority of us on this Board have never in our entire lives been fearful of polio and that is because we as human beings used our reasoning and have defeated that particular enemy (not completely, though, unfortunately, as there some parts of the world where polio is still a viable threat, though it should not be if the proper vaccines were provided to these people).

 

But now let's talk about what the author of the statement "You can never reason your way to god or truth" probably really meant. He probably equated god with truth. Therefore what he really meant to say was "You can never reason your way to the ultimate truth of god's existence." The problem with this, though, should be self-evident. The statement defines truth for you and equates it with the existence of god. And since I have already, out of necessity, conceded that one cannot reason one's way to god, then I must also concede that if god is equated with truth then neither can one reason one's way to truth. But when I broke down his statement in a way that divided truth from god, I demonstrated that truth can be reached through reasoning.

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