Why ought we believe?

Today this question came to mind: “Why do we believe in Christ?”*

My childhood answer would have been, “So that I can go to heaven.”  I think that continues to be the answer of many mature Christians as well.  Maybe the answer would be more nuanced–something like, “Because he died for me/my sins.”  Or perhaps someone might answer, “Because I love him.”  But with a follow-up question–“Why do you love him?”–things are likely to end up in the same place: “Because he died for me/my sins.” However it is phrased, often it ultimately boils down to avoiding consequences.

I’m starting to think that a better or possibly more accurate answer ought to be, “Because he is Lord.”  It seems to me that the difference between the two answers is subtle but important.  To say, “Because he died for me,” is in a way a self-interested answer, because my primary motivation is the consequence (salvation or damnation), not the person.  Conversely, the primary motivation for believing “Because he is Lord,” is the person of Jesus.  This seems to be the New Testament answer as well.

You might say that “Because he died for me/my sins” is an egocentric answer, whereas “Because he is Lord” is a Christocentric answer. The difference between “Because he died for me/my sins” and “Because he is Lord” is the difference between what might be (in my own interest) and what is (regardless of my own interests).

This is why it is important that in Ethics Dietrich Bonhoeffer argues that Jesus is saviour whether people believe it or not. Jesus as Saviour and Lord is a fact not contingent on my believing it or your believing it.  This, according to Bonhoeffer, is ultimate reality. He is Lord–I can choose to believe it or I can choose to ignore or deny it, but that’s the way it is regardless of my choice.

So for Bonhoeffer spreading the Gospel or sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is not about presenting people with what might be and then having them actualize this potential through a choice of belief or non-belief.  Instead, evangelism (or proclamation, which is apparently the more Bonhoefferian term for it) is simply about pointing people to the way things are.

This is also, I think, why theologians such as Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and Thomas Torrance (to name the three I’ve spent some time with this year), who all have a highly Christocentric theology, all at least tend towards supporting some form of universal salvation (through Christ).  Because for these theologians it is ultimately about who Jesus is rather than what might become of me.  Of course, what becomes of me comes into the picture somewhere along the line, but that is still ultimately an outworking of who Christ is. No matter how you look at it, Christ is the centre.

I feel like I could transition into some of my reflections on this past year which I presented in church a couple of weeks ago as a part of our “The Spirit Speaks in Community” series. I reflected on the impact of “faith of Christ” vs. “faith inChrist” in Galatians 2 on my own thinking on the subject.  However, a) people tend not to read overly long posts, and b) I need to crunch those thoughts down into a post-sized form. So this post is, in a way, to be continued…

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*I suppose another way to frame the topic is to ask, “What is the essence of the Gospel?” but this is the way it came to mind today.

30 thoughts on “Why ought we believe?

  1. Toni

    Why ought we believe? Because He is.

    I was going to put a wink smilie, but that’s not entirely tongue in cheek.

    Why do I love Him? I have to ask the question first: do I love Him? And the answer isn’t always particularly comforting, because in practical terms I don’t always/often live like I do.

    Am I aware of having a loving relationship with Jesus? Sometimes, and I’d say it’s out of relationship that I believe in Him. The ‘one set of prints’ holds up to a small degree, but if I didn’t have a 2 way relationship with Jesus then I think I’d probably deny He existed. I’m not that wonderful, faithful ‘down on my knees for 50 years without a hint of encouragement’ kind of guy.

  2. Jerry

    This is my favorite part of your post: “So for Bonhoeffer spreading the Gospel or sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is not about presenting people with what might be… Instead, evangelism (or proclamation, which is apparently the more Bonhoefferian term for it) is simply about pointing people to the way things are.” No need for a mutual exchange of opposing views. If you’re right, your right. Nothing can touch your dogma.

    Oh.. and the sentence, “This, according to Bonhoeffer, is ultimate reality.” I like this one, too. First, how can reality become ultimate? Second, how does Bonhoeffer manage to know what ultimate reality is?

  3. Don Hendricks

    35 years of serious attempts to be a minister and understand the gospel have brought me to the feet of the men and the idea you have been studying. How will your life be different if these truths become the food of the church instead of, Im saved and your not nah na nah nah!!!!!

  4. Andrew

    Jerry – harsh. A charitable reading of the post and Bonhoeffer doesn’t exclude the possibility of a mutual exchange of opposing views. “Nothing can touch your dogma”? This is absurd – again, expressions of belief, opinion, or apparent certainty don’t necessarily exclude a willingness to consider opposing views.

  5. Jerry

    “Apparent certainty”? Read the part I boldfaced again. When there is no room for error, when you can’t say “what might be”, you’re free to consider or think about another’s ideas all you want but they won’t have any effect on the infallibility of your dogma.

    I’m all for being “charitable”, but I’m not willing to whitewash the words Marc wrote in his post.

  6. Marc

    Jerry, I have a hard time believing that anybody atheist, agnostic or Christian can operate otherwise. You have your commitments and I have mine and we both speak, act and interpret based on those commitments.

    Isn’t that how discussion and debates work? I have my position and you have yours and we discuss. I’m not sure how what Bonhoeffer says is in principle any different in terms of dogmatism than what you have been saying–you seem fairly confident in your position. And that’s how it should be. How can you argue for or defend any position without making some kind of commitment to it?

    It’s not clear to me what kind of openness or “freedom” you’re talking about–is it some kind of nebulous neutral or objective position? Is it non-commitment? Nobody that I’m aware of works that way.

  7. Marc

    My point being simply that I’m not aware of anyone qualifying everything they say with “But I could be wrong.” Commitment to an idea does not mean immovability. It’s just the way we operate.

  8. Anthony Vigar

    Hey Marc, from time to time, in the latter hours of a day, I get a few seconds to catch up on what you have been delving into… even two doors down, the wonderful opportunity to interact is ever so elusive.

    I love your question, if I could rephrase, “why do I believe in Christ?” My answer has become – “because He has revealed Himself to me as Lord and Saviour, and His Spirit of Faith is in me. (2 Cor. 4:13)”

    Your second question, “why do I love Jesus?” I think my answer has become, “Because I am a recipient of His love for me (1 Jo 4:19) and He infuses the love I need through the work of His Spirit. (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 5:5 and many others)”

    I have found that this retains the Christocentric aspect of the Gospel, for which I am not ashamed and will with every ounce in me, continue to proclaim.

    And if Christocentric means the centrality of the Anointed One, then I am very honoured to have become clothed in Him, to be found in His righteousness. I believe all things are by Him, for Him and to Him, and I have the unspeakable joy and blessedness of being one of His brothers and friend.

    And with this Christocentric perspective that has been so greatly impressed upon me, I would be remiss to not express that I differ greatly and completely with the universalism that is promoted by the theologians which you mention. There is no ounce of sympathy for that perspective and believe it to be a complete affront to the Gospel of Christ, I have never read the recorded words of Jesus proclaim the universalism of the Gospel. As always, after reading many words of men, I like to reacquaint myself with the scriptures… and I always suggest to everyone to do the same. Be Berean (Acts. 17:11) And may the Holy Spirit guide each of us into all truth.

    Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with exceedingly great joy! To the Only Wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 24-25

  9. Marc

    Tony V.:

    It’s not sure that these writers are universalists, though they certainly dance very close to it. Even if they were, they wouldn’t support a sort of willy-nilly all roads lead to heaven kind of universalism, but one deeply rooted in the all-sufficient work of Christ on the cross.

    While at this point I remain agnostic regarding universalism (though I’m deeply sympathetic to it), I don’t see how this kind of Christ-focused universalism is in any way an affront to the Gospel of Christ. Not a stitch of the Good News is lost through universalism–at least not that I can see.

  10. Jerry

    “..any different in terms of dogmatism than what you have been saying–you seem fairly confident in your position. And that’s how it should be. How can you argue for or defend any position without making some kind of commitment to it?” [boldface mine]

    Marc, I know my response may sound repetitive here, and I probably won’t be saying anything you haven’t heard in our previous discussion on my blog, but I thought I’d say just a little more (maybe for my benefit alone).

    My theological commitments are tentative, NOT certain, NOT dogmatic. I do not see ANY of my theological opinions as infallible. How about you? Or would you rather not answer that question? Or any of the following questions?

    (1) Is the phrase “fairly confident” synonymous with the word “dogmatism”?
    (2) Have I claimed any theological certainty?
    (3) Are you willing to denounce that ANY of your personal theological claims are certain, be it the infallibility of God’s existence, Jesus’ divinity, the afterlife, or whatever else?

  11. Marc

    Are you willing to denounce that ANY of your personal theological claims are certain, be it the infallibility of God’s existence, Jesus’ divinity, the afterlife, or whatever else?”

    Absolutely I can and am willing to admit that I could be wrong about what I believe. I think I’ve written about doubt and uncertainty a great deal on this blog. Faith is not the same as objective, empirical certainty. As far as I am aware, any Christian who speaks of epistemological certainty means only that they are certain by faith, not in any sort of scientific/empirical way–that is, in the sense of conviction or assurance.

    In this respect, I am no different than you. I just don’t think that the default position for lack of objective empirical certainty is agnosticism-atheism. Even though I don’t have that kind of certainty, I still choose to commit to something which I find compelling, or convincing. That’s human nature; it’s how we function. I’m sure you will deny this, but in this sense you too are committing to something which you find compelling or convincing. That’s why we hold the positions we do.

    The difference between you and I in this respect is that I am not convinced that human reason is the be-all and end-all of human knowledge. That’s not to say that faith is irrational, but that it goes where reason alone may not be able to go.

    If I assume reason is the only way to knowledge or understanding (and that would be a commitment to reason), then of course (religious) faith is going to seem silly. But why should I make that assumption in the first place?

    (Or, is it possible to logically argue from reason that reason is all there is?)

  12. Jerry

    “I can and am willing to admit that I could be wrong about what I believe.”

    Thanks for your candor, Marc. It’s when you support views such as “sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is not about presenting people with what might be” that I see an inconsistency in your agnosticism. Because, if you’re a Christian-agnostic, there’s no room for any kind of theological certainty, be it empirical or faith oriented (in your “heart, soul, mind or strength”).

    I must admit, I was a bit surprised to read that you’re a Christian- agnostic. I had a hard time imagining you denying any certainty about such doctrines as the reality of God’s existence and Jesus’ divinity, if asked by a church interviewing you as a candidate to be their pastor. But, you’ve just claimed no theological certainty. So, I apologize for making this assumption about you.

    “I just don’t think that the default position for lack of objective empirical certainty is agnosticism-atheism.” Neither do I. There’s plenty of room for Christian-agnostics like yourself.

    “I’m sure you will deny this, but in this sense you too are committing to something which you find compelling or convincing. That’s why we hold the positions we do.”

    ‘Compelling’? Yes. ‘Convincing’? No. Marc, on this issue of dogmatism, we need to be more careful about the words we choose and clarify how we are using them. For instance, when we use the word “commit” in this context, there should be no room for confusing it with being loyal or faithful.

    “If I assume reason is [so far] the only way to [falsifiable] knowledge or understanding (and that would be a commitment to reason), then of course (religious) faith is going to seem silly. But why should I make that assumption in the first place?” [boldface and words in brackets mine]

    If you allow the words I’ve added in the brackets, the “assumption” becomes far more reasonable, don’t you think?

  13. Marc

    Hmmmm…no, I think you’ve got me wrong. I’m fully committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and believe deeply that Jesus existed and that he was bodily raised from the dead. I say with confidence that Jesus is Lord.

    I believe, I have faith that it is true and in that sense I know it is true. I do not know it objectively or scientifically, but I also don’t believe that I have a lesser form of knowledge.

    According to your last comment, this excludes me from the “agnostic” label. I make truth claims, even while admitting that I could be wrong.

    Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by the questions I answered in my last comment. You asked:

    Are you willing to denounce that ANY of your personal theological claims are certain, be it the infallibility of God’s existence, Jesus’ divinity, the afterlife, or whatever else?

    I thought “denounce” was an unusually strong word, but I decided not to nitpick about it on the assumption that you meant what I thought you meant. However, you may have meant something very specific by it which I did not understand. I denounce none of my beliefs, but I am willing to admit that I do not have objective certainty.

    Also, I do not denounce the infallibility of God’s existence. I don’t believe in the infallibility of God’s existence. I simply believe that God exists. My belief is not infallible.

    I had a hard time imagining you denying any certainty about such doctrines as the reality of God’s existence and Jesus’ divinity, if asked by a church interviewing you as a candidate to be their pastor. But, you’ve just claimed no theological certainty.

    I am confident that no search committee will ask me, “Are you certain that God exists and that Jesus is divine?” But in the off chance that such a question was asked, I’d have to ask them first of all what they meant by certainty. Then I would say that I am not objectively certain, but that I believe deeply that those things are true.

    Any Christian who claims to have objective, empirical certainty apart from faith does not, in my estimation, understand the nature of faith. (Having said that, some people have a faith so strong that they probably wouldn’t be able to see the difference, which is wonderful.)

    There might be more to say here, but I must get dressed and head to class.

  14. Toni

    Jerry – I have a question/comment for you.

    Let’s suppose, rather like they do in films, that you woke up one day in a bed that was like yours, but felt strangely different. You got up to see where your wife was (now what was her name?) but she wasn’t there and you found the house decorated in a way that lacked her touch. Feeling disoriented you wandered into the children’s room, only to find it was a study with that 24″ iMac that you vaguely remembered buying last week. You’re starting to panic now, because there’s no sign of the family you thought you had and seemed to remember were there yesterday.

    So you went to work feeling confused, but your feet found their way because that’s where they’ve been for years. You met a good friend there, and because he’s close you tell him about waking up that morning and not understanding why your family wasn’t there, yet at the same time recognising things looked just as if they never had been, and the confusion you felt. So he, being kindly and gentle explained that people did sometimes have delusions like that, but all the evidence pointed to the family never existing outside of your imagination, and that he’d never met your ‘wife’ despite being a drinking friend for the last 10 years.

    How do you think that might make you feel about your family that you ‘knew’ existed?

    For some of us, we feel like God talks to us, interacts with us, loves us, carries us at times. It could be complete self-delusion (and some of the things people claim from God, I’m certain are). But if some of us are a little irrational about the things we believe, it may be because there’s more than mental assent to a particular line of philosophy or thinking. That may be why some people talk of it as certainty, rather than a point to debate.

    I fully expect you to know all this, but maybe it’ll help with perspective.

  15. Jerry

    You know, Marc, you’re the first Christian to have discussed with me at length the ‘Who claims theological certainty?’ topic. And probably not the last! I appreciate you dialoging with me about this. Your approach to this topic gives me experience to look back on when I discuss this topic with others.

    You said, “I believe, I have faith that it is true and in that sense I know it is true. I do not know it objectively or scientifically, but I also don’t believe that I have a lesser form of knowledge… According to your last comment, this excludes me from the “agnostic” label. I make truth claims, even while admitting that I could be wrong.” [boldfaced mine]

    I’m gonna assume you’ve misrepresented your self here because you just described yourself as a liar. I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean to. So, even though it may seem that I’m belaboring, to avoid the ‘lying’ assumption, I’m gonna try to find some clarity about where you stand.

    Marc, how can someone make a logical claim to know truth and not be, in any way, certain?

    “I don’t believe in the infallibility of God’s existence. I simply believe that God exists. My belief is not infallible… I’d have to ask them first of all what they meant by certainty. Then I would say that I am not objectively certain, but that I believe deeply that those things are true.”

    Are you trying to communicate to me: you’re subjectively, ALMOST certain that God’s existence and Jesus’ divinity is real?

    But then there’s still the contradiction of claiming to know truth.

    OR, are you trying to communicate to me: your EMOTIONS for a real triune God, for a real ‘fully God, fully human’ Jesus, ARE CERTAIN?

    This last one would seem to clear up a lot of the logic. The certainty is not what you think, but what you feel. And yes, your feelings could be wrong about their certainty! And you, nor your feelings, would be lying about it! You’ve just been describing your emotional experience. You don’t THINK this emotional experience of yours is infallible, but you know that this emotional experience FEELS as if it is unmistakeably real, that what they are experiencing is true!

    If you confirm for me, this is what you were trying to communicate, then, the only problem I see that is left is that you say this is not a lesser form of knowledge than knowledge that is scientific or objective.

  16. Jerry

    Toni, I enjoyed your analogy. Well written. It reminded me of a dream I had about fifteen years ago. The dream was incredibly vivid. I’ve never had any other dream that was so convincing.

    The dream was about a girl I knew of (in real life), but hardly knew at all. She was attractive, but I wasn’t interested in her romantically, I wasn’t interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with her.

    In the dream, however, I experienced two years of her and I being a romantic couple. I woke up with memories of our conversations, our outings, the clothing we wore, even memories of a sex life with her. (I know I’ve opened a door for some hilarious dream analysis here.)

    When I woke up, I actually had to adjust to the reality we all know and experience. It took a minute or two.

    I saw the girl that day, and I became completely messed up again. Every time I looked at her I remembered “our relationship”. I knew her, had memories of her intimate thoughts and feelings she shared with me in the past.

    We all know that it is not uncommon for guys to have mentally undressed a girl or two. Well, I didn’t need to try to imagine her naked. I knew what she looked like naked. And I knew what she felt like, how she kissed. (Yes, I know. It sounds like I seriously needed to get laid 😉 ).

    It was so disconcerting, and so disappointing to also know that she was completely unaware of these memories. I wanted to go to her and talk to her. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide my experiences of her, or rather, my assumptions. I knew I’d come across as a freak if I revealed to her my dream. So I just lived with it, a dream that challenged my sense of reality.

  17. Jerry

    OOPS! Marc, I made a bad mistake in my second last paragraph. You probably knew what I meant, but I’d like to clear it up.

    One of the sentences should read: “And you, nor your feelings, wouldn’t be lying about it!”

    Sorry.

  18. Toni

    Thanks Jerry. That must have been SO unsettling, and to not have been able to even talk with her about it too…

    You said “Marc, how can someone make a logical claim to know truth and not be, in any way, certain?”

    Oddly enough I’m a professional scientist. We do this all the time, and base our understanding of truth on the things we observe: until something new comes along and shows that what we thought to be fact was actually a combination of other things that we didn’t realise were there. It happens often, and sometimes people get quite embarrassed by statements they made 10 or even 5 years before.

  19. Jerry

    Toni, what field of research do you specialize in?

    My understanding of science is that it is always tentative, seeking out the truth and rarely finding it, except in abstract mathematical equations like 2+2=4.

    I’ve heard others say things like, “You have your truth and I have mine.” I’ve always thought that was a load of baloney. I understand truth as being infallible, not false or erroneous (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/true). A high ideal no doubt.

    When others use the word truth in the manner you’ve described, be it scientists or otherwise, I see it as a misuse of the word. Of course, if I’m wrong about this, I’m open to being persuaded to the right use of the word.

  20. Marc Post author

    I’m gonna assume you’ve misrepresented your self here because you just described yourself as a liar.

    I’ve replied twice and deleted the reply twice. I’m not sure why I didn’t like either comment, but I suspect it might be because I can’t for the life of me figure out what you mean by this. Can you explain in what way I’ve described myself as a liar? (Also: “liar” is perhaps not the most charitable term to use in an otherwise charitable discussion.)

  21. Andrew

    Can’t one use the language of ‘certainty’ while still acknowledging the possibility of error? I hope so. I don’t think we are as humans capable of having objective, absolute knowledge; truth is always limited and finite, and subject to new discovery.

  22. Jerry

    Andrew,
    Why do you think it’s necessary to use “the language of ‘certainty'”? Why not be satisfied in a pursuit for the most reliable methods we can use to avoid falsehoods?

    Marc,
    If I tell someone something that involves a claim I say I KNOW is true, while knowing in fact that I DON’T KNOW if it is true, I’m lying to them. You said, “I make truth claims, even while admitting that I could be wrong.” [boldfaced mine]

    But if what you really meant to say was something like, “I have FEELINGS that have experienced what someone else has claimed to be true. I don’t have THOUGHTS that have experienced the truth of that claim. So my feelings could be wrong about reality, my feelings could be experiencing something that isn’t real, that isn’t true.”

    If this is what you meant to say, then you would NOT be describing yourself as a liar. You wouldn’t be THINKING that which your emotions experienced IS unmistakeably real, IS infallible, IS a certainty, IS true. Instead, you would be acknowledging that what your emotions experienced FEELS as if it IS true, certain, infallible, unmistakeably real.

  23. Jerry

    I think I misused the word ‘infallible’. Instead, take my use of it as conveying that the ability our emotions have to distinguish reality from the unreal is NOT infallible.

  24. Andrew

    I would agree with you Jerry that not using the language of certainty in any objective or ‘fundamental’ sense is the better way to go.

    Isn’t a lie an intentional misrepresentation of what is true? If I express a genuine belief that x is true, then if it turns out after the fact that x is not true, then I wasn’t lying – I was just plain wrong. There was no intention to misrepresent.

    I think an implied term of any ‘truth claim’ that most people make is “subject to revision”. If I say “God exists” that does not mean that I have any final word on it – after all, I have no access to objective, “view from nowhere” truth. It’s implied that I could be wrong.

  25. Marc

    “Certainty” is a loaded word and perhaps does not serve a useful function anymore.

    Having said that, practically speaking it seems that we speak in certainties with, as Andrew notes, the implication that we could be wrong. I’m not sure how it could be otherwise.

    Even within this discussion, we have all phrased things in terms of certainties. You have said many things as if they were true without ever qualifying it with “but I could be wrong”. Yet I assume that you could be wrong (setting our disagreement aside for the moment). But do you? Do you think there is a possibility you could be wrong about what you’ve said here?

  26. Jerry

    Andrew,

    “Isn’t a lie an intentional misrepresentation of what is true? If I express a genuine belief that x is true, then if it turns out after the fact that x is not true, then I wasn’t lying – I was just plain wrong. There was no intention to misrepresent.”

    It sounds like you know x is true. It sounds like you’re certain. AND, you haven’t mentioned that you know you could be wrong. Your belief sounds genuine because you’re consistent. You’re not contradicting self, you’re not telling someone something that is false.

    “I think an implied term of any ‘truth claim’ that most people make is “subject to revision”. If I say “God exists” that does not mean that I have any final word on it – after all, I have no access to objective, “view from nowhere” truth. It’s implied that I could be wrong.”

    There’s plenty of people that don’t make or see implications like these. And it sure doesn’t help that there is nothing at all in these words to signify these implications. For such an important matter, you would think that a better method of communication would be used. If by “God exists” you’re implying “God might exist” or “God could exist”, why not just say that? It seems to me that it’s necessary for your audience (known and unknown) to have “God exists” qualified. And it’s not difficult. I already used two.

    Here are some more examples:
    (1) I assume God exists.
    (2) In my heart, I know that God exists.
    (3) I feel that God exists.
    (4) If God exists…
    (5) I’m guessing God exists…
    (6) I imagine God exists.
    (7) I have no doubt God exists.

  27. Jerry

    Marc,

    “You have said many things as if they were true without ever qualifying it with “but I could be wrong”… Do you think there is a possibility you could be wrong about what you’ve said here?”

    If I have said anything like, “I believe, I have faith that it is true and in that sense I know it is true” or “I make truth claims” or “sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is not about presenting people with what might be”, please, point them out to me. I may have misspoke.

    There’s always a possibility that I could be wrong. It’s possible for everyone. So, where do we go from here in our search for truth? I look for and use the most reliable method I can find to gain understanding and avoid being false. How about you?

  28. Marc

    If I have said anything like, “I believe, I have faith that it is true and in that sense I know it is true” or “I make truth claims” or “sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is not about presenting people with what might be”, please, point them out to me. I may have misspoke.

    You haven’t said these things specifically–but then my previous comment doesn’t claim that you do. I said, “you have said many things as if they were true…”; those statements you list are not the only way to say things as if they were true.

    I would say your overall presentation has been one of confidence or possibly certainty in your position. You speak as if what you say is true. That is as it should be, because that’s how we function in discussion.

    If we cannot make any claims without absolute, objective certainty, then a discussion like this would be moot, if not impossible. The fact is, in order to make discussion possible, We speak with confidence–as if we are certain–even while recognizing that we do not have absolute, objective certainty.

    I just skimmed through the comments here (I had lost track of what had been said) and I noticed something you said which I had previously overlooked:

    My theological commitments are tentative, NOT certain, NOT dogmatic. (from comment 10)

    This is precisely what I have been trying to say throughout this thread. I do not think I have absolute, objective certainty about anything. Even so, I choose to commit to a position. This is your language as well.

    If we do agree on this, I’m not sure why this discussion has gone on so long! But it seems that we don’t agree. Why not? We disagree because our “theological commitments” are different.

    Interestingly, even while referring to your “theological commitments” as tentative, in comment 12 you say, “For instance, when we use the word “commit” in this context, there should be no room for confusing it with being loyal or faithful.

    But why should there be no room for the notions of loyalty or faithfulness when using the term “commit”? In fact, if your theological commitments are indeed tentative,neither certain nor dogmatic, then how could it be anything other than loyalty or faithfulness? If they are uncertain, what’s your motivation for committing to them other than faith (even if it is not “religious”) or loyalty?

  29. Marc

    There’s always a possibility that I could be wrong. It’s possible for everyone.

    Again, this is what I have been saying all along. So we agree–at least on this point!

    So, where do we go from here in our search for truth?

    It is here that we disagree. I am not ready to discount emotion and experience nor the possibility of commitment apart from absolute, objective certainty.

    I suspect you, too, operate under this principle, but I also suspect that you will deny this!

    I look for and use the most reliable method I can find to gain understanding and avoid being false.

    How does one find or determine the most reliable method?

    I assume you are referring to reason. How does one determine that reason is the most reliable method for gaining understanding (of, presumably, anything and everything)? Do we use reason to decide for reason?

    This, incidentally, is perhaps the most confident or certain statement you have made. Could you be wrong about your method being the “most reliable”? You clearly think you can be (you said in your last comment that “There’s always a possibility that I could be wrong. It’s possible for everyone.”)

    If you could be wrong about the ultimate reliability of reason, why are you using this method?

    (I’m probably getting repetitive here, but it seems to me that we agree on the basic point about certainty and knowledge, but we disagree about the implications of this, so I’m stressing my point.)

  30. Jerry

    Yeah, if this goes on any longer, we might call it a marathon :^) . We seem to be having some issues over semantics that might have to be dealt with later, when our abilities to articulate and understand another’s argument have improved. So, I’ll give my good-bye response, and hope that you won’t tempt me to respond to your last words.

    “If you could be wrong about the ultimate reliability of reason, why are you using this method?” [boldfaced mine] I don’t know why you used the word “ultimate” here. To focus my point(s), I’ll ignore it and talk about the rest of the statement.

    First, let’s re-visit my words: “I look for and use the most reliable method I can find to gain understanding and avoid being false. How about you?” [boldfaced mine]

    Marc, I say many things as if they were reasonable. Whether they are true or not is up for exploration. I assume those things I’ve said to be reasonable because others (some with an intelligence I appreciate and some I don’t) have recognized that they’re coherent, and based upon a method anybody can verify through repeated falsifiable tests.

    My arguments are based on a material reality we all experience (something we all know to be real), as are most arguments. From what I’ve learned so far, arguments that are based on a supernatural reality, generally, have little to no reliability if you desire coherency, non-contradictions, verifiability, and falsifiability.

    But if you know of a more reliable method to use for my pursuit of understanding and the avoidance of falsehoods, please, let me know. THIS IS IMPORTANT! I want and need the most reliable method. So, if you’ve got one, I’ll toss the one I’ve been using. I’m not loyal or faithful to a lesser method.

    Thanks again, Marc. This conversation may have been tiresome, and you may have got nothing out of it (sorry if this is so). However, I think I’ve gained some valuable experience to keep in mind when I talk with others on this subject.

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