The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

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The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby MindForgedManacle » Sat Jul 20, 2013 4:07 am

As a heads up, I also recently posted this argument over on AtheistForums.com and AtheistForums.org (here).


I created this argument a little while back and I was wondering if you all could critique the argument by pointing out any logical (or informal) fallacies and/or weak points in the argument?

Problem of Imperfect Revelation:


P1) God (Yahweh) is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being (i.e the Greatest Conceivable Being or GCB) who exists in the actual world, and is the perfect and uncaused creator of the universe.


P2) God's actions are by necessity consistent with his perfect nature as the GCB.


P3) God intends that we - his special creation - join him in Heaven after death by accepting certain propositions as true and living in a certain way, as revealed in the holy scriptures directly inspired by God to would-be prophets and followers


P4) There are - and have been - denominational/sectarian disputes amongst God's - with said disputes often being because of different textual interpretations - and these disputes have even concerned what is necessary for [P3] (entrance to Heaven).


P5) Given [P1 - 3], it follows from [P4] that is must be consistent with God's nature to allow for denomination/sectarian theological disputes, even though they have conflicted with God's intention ([P3]).


P6) It also follows from [P1 - 3] that God has both the power and motive to have prevented [P4] in the first place.


C) Therefore, a being fitting the description of Yahweh ([P1 - 3]) cannot exist.


What do you think? I was intending to show that it seems a contradiction for Abrahamic monotheists to assert God's 3 'omni-' attributes and desire for humans to enter Heaven, with the fact that the revelation detailing the method of doing so can even be interpreted in such different ways (saved by faith, by works, Gnostic Christians beliefs, etc.). It also draws on the fact that, according the believers and their scriptures, God has the capability to reveal himself to people without violating their free will.

Otherwise, it would seem theists would have to say - if accepting the argument - conclude one of the following (each of which has big problems for theists):

*God can violate free will (God gets moral culpability).

*God doesn't possess one of his 'omni-' traits. (loose Plantinga's Ontological argument)

*God doesn't want his creations to go to Heaven, or doesn't want all of them to. (loose omnibenevolence)

*God's actions aren't - or do not have to be - consistent with his nature. (makes escaping the Euthyphro dilemma practically impossible).

*Appeal to some unknown/unknowable reason defense (e.g.claim God has "morally sufficient reasons" for allowing this).


Your thoughts? Any errors on my part?
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby sepia » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:05 am

I think the argument is good. I already know the version, that God, when he wants to reveal himself, shouldn't have inspired some people to write a book, that is so easy to misunderstand and looks just like a collection of man made myths. Think about Paul: His revelations just look like epilepsy. Even a not all knowing, all powerful being will be able to aviod this. It is totally stupid to make a revelation undistiguishable from hallucination.

To be fair: I see no way, that God could reveal himself in a way, that we can distinguish him from any other godlike entity. Aliens with highly advanced technology could be able to perform "miracles" too. If I'm right, then God would know, that all of his revelantions can be mistaken, and he will change his mind about this. Instead of trying to convince us with arguments, that he is God, he will allow us to believe, that he is just and unclassified superhuman being - maybe a god, maybe an alien, or a demon.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby dobbie » Sat Jul 20, 2013 5:39 pm

MFM wrote: P1) God (Yahweh) is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being (i.e the Greatest Conceivable Being or GCB) who exists in the actual world, and is the perfect and uncaused creator of the universe.

I would have to put on the brakes right there. I ask what is omnipotence, and the other qualities. What form do they take and where's the evidence for them? Meanwhile, the irony is that science can measure the size of an atom but can't find convincing evidence for God in the actual world. In short, the premise there doesn't work for me.

*God doesn't want his creations to go to Heaven, or doesn't want all of them to. (loose omnibenevolence)
Well, that's what the New Testament says--many are called but few are chosen. Moreover, some Christians say that God is not all-loving, anyway.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby Lausten » Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:32 pm

Agreed dobbie, this does give the theist a bit of rope to begin with it. In the real world, most have already taken that rope anyway, so if you want to start at this point, which I see as just another way to ask, "so, why are there so many version of religion in the world?" then that's fine. It's a way to get people to consider just what their theology is and maybe even to start questioning it.

It depends who you're talking to, but I also agree that stopping them at the earliest point possible is often a good strategy. Even the Bible itself immediately backs off the idea of the perfect God. Right away his creations starts acting like He doesn't exist and he tries starting over at one point.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby MindForgedManacle » Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:24 am

dobbie wrote:I would have to put on the brakes right there. I ask what is omnipotence, and the other qualities. What form do they take and where's the evidence for them? Meanwhile, the irony is that science can measure the size of an atom but can't find convincing evidence for God in the actual world. In short, the premise there doesn't work for me.


The premise obviously isn't supposed to be taken as true in reality by atheists, otherwise they wouldn't be atheists. ;)

Science doesn't really have anything to do with this argument, nor with God's proposed attributes.


Well, that's what the New Testament says--many are called but few are chosen. Moreover, some Christians say that God is not all-loving, anyway.


Well, the New Testament also has Paul claiming that God is "not willing that any should perish, but gain eternal life".

'All-loving' isn't necessary for the argument, it just bolsters it. All that is necessary is that God is powerful, His actions must necessarily be consistent with his nature (the theistic 'answer' to the Euthyphro Dilemma) and that God wants for humans to go to Heaven and created a method for them to do so.


@Lausten My argument is supposed to give theists lots of rope. My first premise accepts (for the sake of argument) Plantinga's Ontological argument and the Kalam Cosmological argument, and the 2nd accepts the monotheists' answer to the Euthyphro dilemma.

The reasons why I do this for the argument are:

1) It stops discussions from getting bogged down on "conceptual analysis" and theists' (likely) unwillingness to give up certain propositions


2) Attempts to show that even when accepting 2 major arguments for God's existence, the apparent desires and actions that god supposedly did cannot be the case, making it an incoherent concept of a being.


I hope that cleared things up. :)
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby dobbie » Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:01 pm

from Dobbie: Well, that's what the New Testament says--many are called but few are chosen. Moreover, some Christians say that God is not all-loving, anyway.

MFM wrote: Well, the New Testament also has Paul claiming that God is "not willing that any should perish, but gain eternal life".


Well, it's like this. The New Testament says conflicting things about salvation, such as, "Many are called but few are chosen." "God doesn't will that any should perish." "God decides who will be saved and who won't be."

What to make of such flip-flop talk is up to the individual. But meanwhile, saying that it has to be just one way, that it has to mean one thing, in view of the conflicting NT statements, won't work.

The way I see it, however, not all people are divinely destined to be saved, and that's why many people will go to the bad place, according to the NT.

My above remarks are an attempt to demonstrate that the original argument has overly limited boundaries. And my view is that the limitations are revealed in the opening premise. In fact, in my opinion, a common problem with syllogisms is that the premise doesn't work well for some people. Now what?

'All-loving' isn't necessary for the argument, it just bolsters it.
Well, if "all-loving" is erroneous--that is, some Christians claim that God isn't all-loving--I don't see how it's supposed to bolster it. In other words, the premise represents a view that many theists don't hold; so I suppose that they would flatly disagree with the premise itself. Now what?

You requested some feedback for the heck of it, and I supplied some for the heck of it, of course, from my point of view. So far, your counter-arguments to stuff I've said has swayed my view not at all. I assume that the whole point of presenting the original argument is offer a "watertight" or influential argument, but that is not what happens. As is, it merely gives rise to controversy. So, if it's to work better, something should be done about it, if possible. Or at least issue a disclaimer saying: that the premise is presented in an unavoidably limited sense, but let's see where such a premise takes us anyway. And that's my feedback.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby MindForgedManacle » Sat Jul 27, 2013 4:45 am

dobbie wrote:Well, it's like this. The New Testament says conflicting things about salvation, such as, "Many are called but few are chosen." "God doesn't will that any should perish." "God decides who will be saved and who won't be.


Short of being a Calvinist, you're pretty much not going to find a Christian who doesn't think that everyone can (in potential) be saved, i.e don't accept predestination of the soul.

What to make of such flip-flop talk is up to the individual. But meanwhile, saying that it has to be just one way, that it has to mean one thing, in view of the conflicting NT statements, won't work.


And in view of that interpretation being hardly present currently won't work, especially when Calvinist-predestination has insoluble epistemic problems and irreconcilable contradictions with other Christian doctrines (like libertarianist free-will).

The way I see it, however, not all people are divinely destined to be saved, and that's why many people will go to the bad place, according to the NT.


Which is an interpretation hardly accepted by Christians, and the argument isn't aimed at that pretty miniscule number of Christians regardless.

My above remarks are an attempt to demonstrate that the original argument has overly limited boundaries. And my view is that the limitations are revealed in the opening premise. In fact, in my opinion, a common problem with syllogisms is that the premise doesn't work well for some people. Now what?


Aside from the fact that my premise's supposedly "limited" scope applies to and is intended for the overwhelmingly majority of Christians (i.e non-predestinationists), your objection(s) don't do much of anything I think.


Well, if "all-loving" is erroneous--that is, some Christians claim that God isn't all-loving--I don't see how it's supposed to bolster it. In other words, the premise represents a view that many theists don't hold; so I suppose that they would flatly disagree with the premise itself. Now what?


"Now what?"? I just said that the argument doesn't need the concept of "omnibenevolence", but bolsters it. The reason why it bolsters it is because it further supports the conclusion that God would not want people to go to Hell, along with numerous scriptural support from both Paul and Jesus of Nazareth, in addition to giving up the libertarian concept of free-will.

In other words, I've answered that objection: I don't need omnibenevolence, nor would a theist denying omnibenevolence end the argument: I could just drop the term and soley rely on the greater scriptural for non-predeterminism of the soul's fate.

You requested some feedback for the heck of it, and I supplied some for the heck of it, of course, from my point of view. So far, your counter-arguments to stuff I've said has swayed my view not at all. I assume that the whole point of presenting the original argument is offer a "watertight" or influential argument, but that is not what happens. As is, it merely gives rise to controversy. So, if it's to work better, something should be done about it, if possible. Or at least issue a disclaimer saying: that the premise is presented in an unavoidably limited sense, but let's see where such a premise takes us anyway. And that's my feedback.


I've refuted your claim of it being "limited", given most Christians don't hold to predestinationism.

Why wouldn't an argument be presented as watertight? I'd prefer that to an argument that has no bite, especially when the argument applies to the majority of those in question, and even more so when those to whom it doesn't apply hold a position that isn't even epistemically coherent.

I do thank you for the feedback though.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby dobbie » Sat Jul 27, 2013 6:23 pm

MFM wrote: Aside from the fact that my premise's supposedly "limited" scope applies to and is intended for the overwhelmingly majority of Christians (i.e non-predestinationists), your objection(s) don't do much of anything I think.

If your argument is aimed at so-called mainstream Christianity, your premise should state so. Meanwhile, there are, as I see it, important objections to your premise, but you seem to resist them, as if just to resist them? Or have I misunderstood?

I've refuted your claim of it being "limited" ...
Nuh-uh. You're not really serious, are you? Shouldn't I and others be the judge of whether you've refuted anything successfully? You think the premise doesn't need any degree of modification? It states points of view according to certain Christians, who can be wrong about the Christian nature of salvation even if they are "most Christians." A majority factor can have little to do with it. Your premise should state that it addresses the majority group as you see it.

given most Christians don't hold to predestinationism.
So, those who do hold to it don't count? It's plain enough that many people never get "saved." What's more, some even leave Christianity after adhering to it for years. Thus a "potential" to be saved has little or nothing to do with salvation since, as I understand salvation, only God can save souls. That is, a person can't save him- or herself in the first place. The Holy Spirit calls people to be saved, and saves them by giving them faith to be saved. Christians can't save non-Christians; only God can save them. Thus it's as if God decides who gets saved and who doesn't. Well, enough of this point of view on this issue, since it depends on which Christians you talk with.

I'd prefer that to an argument that has no bite, especially when the argument applies to the majority of those in question, and even more so when those to whom it doesn't apply hold a position that isn't even epistemically coherent.
The NT doctrine itself lacks in epistemic coherency. No matter which church of Christianity it is, epistemic incoherency always raises its head again. It's everywhere in Christianity!

I could go on, but I'm not here to make an argument to win, just an argument to inform. I've informed, so I guess I'm finished providing feedback. I wonder how your premise, and conclusion, will fare with Christians in general. Have they provided any feedback?
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby MindForgedManacle » Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:40 pm

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree then, as I see no particular reason to modify a premise that applies nearly universally and those whom it does not apply to have their own insoluble issues. Thanks for the critique though.


Actually, it has gotten some feedback/critique from a few Christians and atheists on another forum. Unfortunately, one of the responding Christians just decided to go on a lengthy tirade of moving the goalposts with regard to my usage of the term 'omnibenevolence'.

An objection I found interesting from my 2 of my fellow atheists is that my argument makes the assumption that a deity's revelation would reveal everything and only the details on one particular path to some sort of salvation, when it seems to be of growing popularity (in some circles) to believe that, say, all religions light a path to salvation in differing - but relatable - ways. Although I think that's a good objection, theists of the sort like William Lane Craig and other fundamentalist-like believers can't really use that objection though.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:53 pm

MindForgedManacle wrote:An objection I found interesting from my 2 of my fellow atheists is that my argument makes the assumption that a deity's revelation would reveal everything and only the details on one particular path to some sort of salvation, when it seems to be of growing popularity (in some circles) to believe that, say, all religions light a path to salvation in differing - but relatable - ways. Although I think that's a good objection, theists of the sort like William Lane Craig and other fundamentalist-like believers can't really use that objection though.

I have to disagree quite strenuously. Don't grant them that. The different religions on this planet are wildly incompatible. Consider Christianity vs Shintoism, or Jainism vs Islam. Judaism vs Buddhism. Or the religions of the ancient past like the Greek and Roman gods. Wildly different moral guidelines. Wildly different requirements for reward after conventional clinical braindeath (if any such reward at all). Only if you water the religions down to a kind of humanism does that claim make any sense, and if you've made it that far (to humanism), then abandon the irrelevant religious crap and go straight to humanism.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby sepia » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:38 pm

Not to forget, that a partial relevation leading to different religions is still an imperfect and far away from what a god could do.
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Re: The Problem of Imperfect Revelation: Your thoughts?

Postby GrammarOfAssent » Wed Feb 18, 2015 4:33 pm

Mindforgedmanacle:

P1 immediately equivocates the revealed god called Yahweh (whose personally revealed attributes, as informed theists will readily admit, can only be known through faith) with god as he can be known through reason/logic alone. In other words, calling the god described in P1, "Yahweh" is logcially premature to achieve your conclusion. While it is true that Judeo-Christian theists accept that Yahweh IS the same thing as the god known by reason, the argument is less sloppy and is more honest by removing Yahweh's name from P1 and refraining from its use until P3-P6 (which are propositions derived from revealed,faith-based assertions). In other words, what you are actually arguing/concluding is that it is impossible for the thing understood as "Yahweh" (as described in the argument, i.e. a thing with divine power and personal intentions) to be the same thing as the uncaused cause of P1. Your argument is a variation on the theme of the problem of evil (especially seen in P5 and P6).

Also:

I find that your second premise needs modification if you wish to avoid contradiction. An un-caused cause (p1) is inconsistent with many actions (p2), and many actions (if understood as contingent actions) are inconsistent with perfection. The metaphysical and philosophical arguments (Thomism and Aristotelianism) which lead to the conclusion of an uncaused cause share the same understanding of the change from potency (i.e. potentiality) to act (i.e. reality). These arguments lead to the conclusion that there must exist some "thing" in which and for which there never existed any potency at all, i.e. a thing which is "pure act". It would be considered a thing which requires no other condition besides itself for its existence (i.e. a thing by necessity). According to the argument, without this thing, nothing at all could currently be existing. This conclusion is not based on a necessary (as in logically demanding) series of cause and effect stretching backward in time (even though it includes the reality of that causal series). Instead, this thing which exists necessarily and has no conditions for its own existence, therefore, must be the same thing as existence. Every thing which is existing in this moment, so the argument goes, must be concurrently deriving its existence from existence itself. It is the Aristotelian-ization of Platonist participation of being.

All things which exist include contingent action in this philosophy. All contingent actions (e.g. the actions we humans experience and observe) must derive their existence, at the very moment they begin to exist, from existence itself, i.e. the metaphysically necessary thing. Every action is real only insofar as it is a participation in the singular act of existence itself, the one metaphysically necessary thing in the universe. To simplify the lexicon, they call the one metaphysically necessary thing, the uncaused cause, existence itself - God. God is a single, eternal (because their is no potentiality), and metaphysically necessary act (singular). All contingent acts (plural) are metaphysically grounded in this single act. So the argument goes.

As far as I can tell either:

1) P2 is deficient in that it admits of some form of contingency/potentiality (i.e. multiple contingent actions) in the thing (i.e. the uncaused cause of P1) which P1 admits no form of contingency/potentiality.

OR

2) P2 is deficient in that it admits, at the same time and in a contradictory manner, contingency/potentiality (i.e. multiple actions) and necessity (i.e. perfection of a necessary nature)

In summary:

P1 can either be restated (together with the recommended correction of P2) as either: "Yahweh is understood to be the same thing as the omnipotent, omniscient..." OR simply replacing "Yahweh" with "god"

P2 needs correction

P3 is an overly simplistic summary of a very complex philosophical and theological concepts of divine "intention", soteriology, and religious ethics associated with the revelation of a god who is provident, but if you can get someone to accept it as a premise... so be it. This is where you could first introduce the particular understanding of god's identity as "Yahweh" here. There are some very intelligent theists who have a highly sophisticated theory of divine intention, human freedom, and the relationship between the truths believed, human action, culpability and its intricacies which would require the acceptance of revelation. Some of these are, you might be surprised, internally consistent and sound, IF you accept the truths they claim to be revealed truths. The job of a theologian is to discover sound explanations for APPARENT contradictions to which P3 and P4 imply. In other words, an intelligent theist will not give you P3, as stated. Why? Because their revealed religion is, by its own admission, the decisive ANSWER to the problem of evil, and no one can accept it as a truly satisfying answer unless by faith. Faith solves the apparent contradiction between P3,4 and 6 which your argument is founded on.

P4 is simply a fact of history

P5 is fine as far as it goes, but carries the same problematic theological baggage as P3 does (described above). The problem lies in the final clause. What contradiction? What sort of intention do you mean? They have answers to those questions, and they vary remarkably between the sects and denominations to which you refer. E.g. hyper-calvinists would reject P3, and say that god actually intends (and directly causes) that SOME people go to hell. That is how they solve that problem. Universal Salvation is a theology that rejects that there any conditions at all for entry into heaven, and so they would reject P3's soteriology. See the problem?

P6 Is non sequitur only because it requires a series of syllogisms and other premises to arrive at your concluded proposition about the "power and motive" in God. It does not follow from any possible combination of syllogisms of P1-3 that P6 is true, at least not as written.

According to me, seems like you have a lot of work to do if you want to make this an actual syllogistic argument. A syllogism can only "operate" with two propositions at a time. If you want to say that 3 premises lead to a single conclusion, you need to get there first using only two of them, and then combine that conclusion with the third premise. You have only 4 premises here (P1-4), with the addition of 2 more which follow from the supposed syllogisms. P5 is an attempted conclusion from P2 (not 1-3) and P4. P6 is an attempted conclusion derived from a combination of syllogisms using P1 (power), P3 (intention), P4 (the thing which could have been prevented), and a ghost premise you are implying but not illustrating (it need to be illustrated in order to be convincing).

My two cents anyway.
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