Friday, April 18, 2014

Secular Universities and Religion

One of my areas of study includes how secular universities and religion interact.  The following story was brought to my attention.  Does it violate the Constitution to have a coach at a secular university encourage players in their Christian faith?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Knowing and showing dialogue

I was sitting in a park when I overheard the following conversation:

Bill:  you can know something without being able to show it. 
Earnest:  like what?
Bill:  I know God exists but I can't show that he exists. 
Earnest:  you mean you can't point him out in a crowd?  That seems obvious since God isn't a physical being. 
Bill:  I mean I can't prove he exists. 
Earnest:  then why do you think you know he exists?
Bill:  because of the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. 
Earnest:  but isn't the Holy Spirit one of the persons of the Trinity?
Bill:  yes 
Earnest: so doesn't it beg the question, commit circular reasoning, to say you know God exists because of God's testimony?  The question is how do we know that there is a God to give a testimony. 
Bill: I know it because it is a belief formed through the properly functioning faculties that God created me with. 
Earnest: isn't that circular reasoning again?  The question is how do we know there is a God who created us with faculties to properly function?
Bill: I can give you over 20 proofs to show that. 
Earnest:  but I thought you didn't need proofs to know God. 
Bill: these proofs just support what my properly functioning faculties already tell me. 
Earnest: but how do you know they are properly functioning when they tell you there is a God?
Bill:  because the over 20 proofs make that the most probable explanation. 
Earnest: so you know God exists, and knowing this means the Holy Spirit has given you inner testimony and your God-created properly functioning faculties also give you the belief in God?
Bill: yes. It's an immediate knowledge without need of further proof. 
Earnest: have you ever been confident about other immediate deliverances that turned out to be wrong?
Bill:  of course. 
Earnest: how do you know this is any different?
Bill: because of the arguments I have to show it is the most probable explanation. 
Earnest: so you make a distinction between an immediate belief which itself could be wrong, and giving arguments to show why it is probably correct?
Bill:  of course. 
Earnest: then your first claim, that you know God but do not need to prove God exists, is really just a claim about your personal confidence in that belief. When challenged you end up relying on proof. 
Bill: yes, but my first belief is correct. 
Earnest: but you said there have been other cases where your immediate deliverances turned out to be incorrect. So you don't know it is correct until you have that further proof. It's at best a correct opinion. It's true, you believe it, but don't know why it's true. 
Bill:  even so, that's what matters in knowing God.
Earnest: what about those who say they have the opposite immediate deliverance?
Bill: they are wrong. 
Earnest: but neither of you know that until you examine the proofs. You are both begging the question. 
Bill:  but as long as my belief in God is correct I'm going to heaven. Proofs are just icing on the cake. 
Earnest:  so the goal of affirming your immediate deliverance about God is heaven?
Bill: yes, an everlasting relationship with God. 
Earnest: and the other guy who has the opposite deliverance doesn't get this, he gets the opposite everlasting outcome. 
Bill:  yep. 
Earnest: and yet you are both just following your immediate deliverances?
Bill: yes except I'd add he is surpressing the correct immediate deliverance about God. 
Earnest: wouldn't he say you are the one surpressing?
Bill:  sure but he is wrong about that. 
Earnest: that's where you have over 20 arguments to show he is probably wrong. 
Bill: yes. 
Earnest: what if he has over 30 arguments to show you are probably wrong?
Bill: we can compare them and see which best supports the most probable answer. 
Earnest: and based on this process of determining probability one of you ends up with everlasting negative consequences. 
Bill: yes. He does. 
Earnest: so in the final analysis your view says that at most we can probably know that our immediate beliefs about God are correct, and the failure on the part of others to affirm this is due to their not having these properly functioning faculties or surpressing their immediate belief about God, the outcome of which is a negative and everlasting one. 
Bill: yes, but that is all we really ever have. Certainty is reserved for very few subjects and almost all of those are uninformative. 
Earnest: so your explanation about knowing and showing begins with the assumption that nothing informative is certain. 
Bill:  yes I take that to be obvious. 
Earnest: that nothing is certain includes nothing is certain about God and about good and evil?
Bill: obviously. 
Earnest: would you say that there is a clear distinction between God and what is created, and a clear distinction between good and evil?
Bill: I think so. 
Earnest: so isn't what you are calling surprressing really just instances of persons attributing the attributes of God to the creation, or the attributes of good to evil?
Bill: perhaps. 
Earnest: then isn't the issue whether we have correctly identified these distinctions, and not whether we have immediate deliverances about them?  After all, everyone has immediate deliverances that require further examination. 
Bill: but distinguishing between God and the creation doesn't prove there is a God. 
Earnest : no, it begins the discussion to consider the implications of denying that there is a clear difference, or of attributing the eternal power and divine nature of God to what is essentially temporal and changing. 
Bill: why do this if I already know God?
Earnest: know him through inner testimony and proper functioning?
Bill: yes
Earnest: because you've already conceded that these could be incorrect, other instances of immediate beliefs have been incorrect, and your 20 arguments only give you probability about the most important things we can study. 
Bill : that seems sufficient to me. 
Earnest: does it establish that the failure to know God is culpable?
Bill: if it's due to surpressing.
Earnest: but your whole account of surpressing was based on your circular reasoning. Additionally, you said the suppression occurs through a person having an alternative belief to replace belief in God. 
Bill: right 
Earnest: is that alternative belief clearly false?
Bill: it's probably false. The data is best explained by God. 
Earnest: what does "best explained" mean?
Bill: it makes the most sense. 
Earnest: to you?
Bill: yes. 
Earnest: but not to the other guy?
Bill: no. 
Earnest: so probability just means plausibility which is a statement about you not about what is true. Don't many people find things plausible that are not true?
Bill: yes, but I have the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit to guide me. 
Earnest: so your view is that this other person is culpable and will have an everlasting negative outcome for not agreeing with you about what is plausible?
Bill: I'm sure the outcome won't be everlastingly negative, that doesn't seem fair. 

The interlocutors moved on at that point so I didn't hear the rest of their discussion.