I realized that every single time I used an analogy, he didn’t “get it.” Instead, he started talking about the example in the analogy instead of the concept I was trying to get across.
Despite — or perhaps because — we seem to be making some linear progress in these last few posts, I do worry whether we really are talking about the same thing. Thus, before I address Alan’s very reasonable concerns, I’d like to double-check that we at least agree about where we’re trying to go.
[Read more] for my attempt to more precisely frame the terms of our debate…
That is, while we may change our mind based on further information, all three of these statements appear plausible given our current understanding. So far, so good. However, Alan then raises three additional issues:
While I concede that all three are perfectly valid requests, the way he poses them made me realize that we’ve been operating under slightly different metrics of success. In particular, I had been assuming that Alan was implicitly trying to prove the following syllogism:
Thus, as mentioned in Double-Check, if either:
Then I would have to admit defeat. That doesn’t mean I’d agree he’s right, but I would at least concede that his position is better justified than mine. Conversely, if I succeeded on both counts, he would be the one to concede.
Alas, I fear I buried this under a deluge of other posts, so I can’t tell whether Alan actually accepted that wager or not. I suspect the latter, since according the “rules” I was playing by, all I need to do is show that there exists a theory that simultaneously i) qualifies as orthodox Christianity, and ii) addresses his stated concerns in order to invalidate his syllogism. Which — while I haven’t done so yet — I seem to be close to accomplishing.
Unfortunately (at least for me :-), Alan apparently wants to hold me to a higher standard. Which is fine, but since I’m confused as to exactly what that standard is, I’m not quite sure how we’re ever going to converge. So, let me try to define what I think is a reasonable “standard of proof” that I need to satisfy in order to “win” Round One. My task, as I see it, is to develop a coherent “theory of divinity” that:
And thus, if I can achieve all that — to our mutual satisfaction — then I would argue I can fairly claim that my belief in Christianity is paradigmatically justified relative to everything we’ve discussed so far; and that your disbelief in Christianity is not.
Now, that wouldn’t necessarily mean I am completely right, or that you are “fundamentally wrong.” However, my impression is that the apparent failure of the Christianity you knew to address these concerns was a prime mover in your decision to abandon it. If so, then I would think a successful refutation of them would at least provide a meaningful convergence point.
To be sure, there will always be more concerns. But, do you know any theory that doesn’t have unanswered questions? Thus, if I can at least answer the questions you’ve raised so far about the consistency and explanatory power of my worldview, would you be willing to concede that achievement, and first submit your own belief system to that same level of rigorous examination before raising new issues?
As far as the question of whether I actually “believe” my theory — that isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. The short answer is that I believe it is “close” to the truth, but (going back to Newton) I can’t really say how or where it breaks down outside the range where I’ve already validated it. However, given that our dataset is 2,000 years of Christian history, and we’ve covered epistemology, ethics, ontology, sociology, and psychology along the way, I would argue devising a coherent theory within those constraints is good enough for our purposes.
If it isn’t, I’m not sure what would be. Alan?