Rational Leaps into the Absurdity of God Pt.2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog about Kierkengaard and his frequently misconstrued philosophy, especially in relation to popular apologetics. Before you continue reading this post, I would highly suggest you read its predecessor here:https://masonkelso.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/rational-leaps-into-the-absurdity-of-god/

After further study and introspection, I have come to a relatively firm position that classical apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith based primarily upon rational argument and evidence) is regularly missing a tremendously important element that many of its defenders often take for granted: the individual’s subjective experience.

Not long ago, I went to a Bible and Beer Consortium (check them out!) event to see apologetics superhero Dr. William Lane Craig speak on the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. If you’ve spent any significant time attacking or defending Christianity, you know this guy. He’s a beast. I have so much respect for him. Over and over, he, in an upstanding Christian manner, takes atheists to the place where Travis had to shoot Old Yeller. He just ruins atheistic arguments. I’ve watched him for years answer question after question and am astounded at his ability to thoroughly answer them all, no matter the topic. Even when I don’t agree with him (especially in quantum physics), he still hits his target.

Until here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5IPW3Pa000

This agnostic respectfully approaches Dr. Craig. He admits “apostasy”, recognizes there is “a lot of evidence” for the resurrection of Christ, and asks “from the heart, what am I missing?”. Dr. Craig, whom I, again, have the utmost respect for, rightly points out “psychological” and “emotional” factors that are in play for this young seeker. But he then shifts to other arguments for God (cosmological, ontological, etc.) and suggests he reframe his view of Christian belief back to C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”. This is all well and good. But I don’t think that provides an answer for this man’s question. This man is in the midst of a profound existential condition. Tears come to my eyes as I watch this guy throw his hands down and ask, “What am I missing?” or, if I could paraphrase from my own experience, “Why isn’t all this evidence enough? Why isn’t it doing anything?!”

It was very interesting to see Dr. Craig mention C.S. Lewis because one of Lewis’ most well-known quotes was “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[1] That is a primary existential apologetic quote.

As you may or may not know, I have recently been blending my classical approach to apologetics with an existential add-on. Now, on one level, all apologetics, even all experience, is existential. By that I mean that it requires a subjective experience in which to reason from or intake any sensory perception at all. This is obvious.

But on a deeper level, existential apologetics hassles the individual to come to grasp with a particular need that they have for God. Now, thats a broad definition. If left at such an unsophisticated assessment, existential apologetics can easily become fallacious. For example, it would be just as practical to create a parallel argument that one may become just as gratified with a new TV set as he would be with belief in God. Nietzsche, Sartre and others would effortlessly tear this to shreds. It’s individually based, doesn’t pledge any actual fact, some feel fine and dandy without answering these questions, but with just a minor tweak, we can construct a mammoth dialectic.

Take notice, apologists. This respect for the subjective, this existential component of which only the “I” can experience, when combined with rational argument and evidence, can point to an objective reality outside of oneself that justifies the struggle within each individual. It warrants each “leap of faith” by its basis in properly basic beliefs, effective confirmation of data while reconciling the confusion and absurdity of the conscious state itself. When blended, it is a more comprehensive and robust apologetic.

So when the poor wanderer, lost not in heart but in reason, asked Dr. Craig, “What am I missing?”, I see only one type of answer: you must admit your need for this Jesus; the Jesus who left so much evidence that you are found wallowing around now pitifully irrational, unexpectedly sinking in it! How should your search still be called incomplete?! Take your leap already!

In Pensees, Blaise Pascal writes, “All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions . . . Yet for very many years no one without faith has ever reached that goal at which everyone is continually aiming . . . What else does this craving . . . this helplessness, proclaim but that there once was once in man a true happiness . . . then he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”[2]

So when this poor wanderer asks, “What am I missing?”, we should ask, “My friend, how empty can you admit yourself to be?”

Like a lame man healed that won’t take a step because he hasn’t yet been provided a compass, make his existential dilemma clear. Kierkengaard correctly deciphers man’s intentions, writing, “What, then, is the difference between an admirer and an imitator? An imitator is or strives to be what he admires, and an admirer keeps himself personally detached, consciously or unconsciously does not discover that what is admired involves a claim upon him, to be or at least to strive to be what is admired.”[3]

So when this poor wanderer asks, “What am I missing?”, we should ask, “My friend, what is it you strive to be?”

The data points to a man worth wanting, worthy of imitation, and the positive plausibility of his truth has already been established. So our apologetic must shift. These questions may snap the center of these honest men’s dilemmas. We can help his reflection become conviction. Evidence is no longer the focus.

[1] C. S. LEWIS. (2001) Mere Christianity. Print.

[2] PASCAL, B. TRANS. KRAILSHEIMER, A.J.. (1995). Pensees. Print.

[3] KIERKEGAARD, S., HONG, H. V., HONG, E. H., & KIERKEGAARD, S. (1983). Practice in Christianity. Print.

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9 thoughts on “Rational Leaps into the Absurdity of God Pt.2

  1. i wonder your study of epistemology, particularly on belief and theories of knowledge.

    apologetics is an odd game.

    there can be no evidence for a transcendent god and an imminent good is indistinguishable from nature, the ordinary.

    rational arguments, logic doesn’t entail truth but is instead predicate on reasonableness; from premises, flow, to conclusion.

    sound arguments for our against the existence of deity are horribly easy to make. one believes one thing or another outside of any fact, any reasoning at all, but nearly entirely because of and through experience.

    our existential impressions of the world and what we make of them in totality (ie the philosphy of place) is why we have ideas of deity at all, and too, why there are folks who do not believe there are deity, or in the assertion that it is true deity exist.

    apologetics is in terms of epistemology, the mere activity of asserting one’s impressions are better than another’s, and in terms of psychology, a need for another to affirm what is often a grave doubt asserted, ironically.

    we are entitled to belief, says neitzsche, and arguments, merely self-defense defense.

    it’s not “what am i missing!” that’s great to literal. the question is, why does any of this matter and how. christian apologists and christianity have become irrelevant because what is said doesn’t matter, and they live no more differently than anyone else.

    just a thought.

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    1. Steven, are you gonna be the guy that comments on every blog???? haha just kidding. I’m glad you’re showing interest. Thank you for that.
      It’s interesting to say epistemology “in particular to theory of knowledge”, since that what it is by definition.. existential and sensory awareness are within epistemology, yes, but to make a statement outside of oneself about the nature of reality is a metaphysical statement itself, not an epistemological one . Metaphysics is, ironically, inavoidable. If we were to say that things, like God or gods, did not exists solely based upon our way of coming to know them would be a genetic fallacy, would it not? maybe I’m misunderstanding you, some of your comments flow oddly together.
      I would definitely disagree that apologetics has “become irrelevant”. I can speak from experience that they are not. They are exploding (even though I HATE HATE HATE a lot of it). I would also be interested in what your criteria of evidence would be..

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      1. first, no. i happened to like why i disagreed with your last blog, enough to look for more interesting blogs. this is one.

        second, no, that’s not a genetic fallacy. discarding an idea because of who is presenting it is.

        third, no, metaphysics is not inevitable. we’re i to not have an impression there are things like deity, it isn’t metaphysics to deny the assertion there are is true, even to myself assert there are no deity.

        this is because truth is a process of deliberation and justification, a label given to certain sentences. in that case, and simply noting that 1) there can’t be evidence for transcendent beings, 2) logic proves nothing, and 3) soundness and justification for accepting there are deity or are not deity is objective, given the philosophy of place … this is all sufficient to say there are no deity, for they manifest exactly as “nothing” does, or if they do, counter to divinity by being completely ordinary, able to be experienced.

        that’s all simply reason, not metaphysics.

        apologetics is only a fad, and where it is exploding, no one ought to care … because folks like WLC disingenuously represent their fields for the sake of souls than clarity, caveats, or enlightenment of another mind.

        for me, i don’t care if there is out is not a god, and though i’m a christian, i don’t care about anything that christians seem to care about. meaning, all that we can say matters is the functional role of beliefs and their impact on who we think we are, effecting how we act, how we see ourselves and others. god is not a proposition that has any impact on human well-being at all, if merely a question of the proposition being true or false. that of course implies why it matters is exactly for psychological reasons instead. that’s not pejorative commentary. it’s just too say like deniro in “the deer hunter”, “this is this!” and the one thing is not the other. so, my focus is on what conversations we can justifiably have about god or christ and then explore what of it matters and why via praxis.

        if that seems odd, i think i may have full agreement with you if suddenly knew there were no god but at the same time, found that fact didn’t change your view of christ in any way that actually ended up mattering; ie turns out he isn’t a demigod, not born of a virgin, not eternal or otherwise miraculous, yet entirely miraculous in atoning humanity with the utter undiscovered depths it entails.

        make sense?

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      2. Discarding a belief based upon who is holding it is an ad hominem. It’s “against the man”.
        Also, logic and math are the most pure form of coming to true statements that we have. I think you might be trying to place all logic in a deductive sense. Inductive (such as that in the natural sciences for example) and abductive logic are to show something might be more plausible than its opponent’s..
        I look at the available evidence and I have come to the conclusion that God exists. Now, I could only have this revelation in a subjective sense. But I believe God, if he does exists, is the ultimate nature of reality. If not put into practice, its pointless. Practice from experience, experience supported by warrant, at least enough to make a claim like “God exists”.
        But the statement, “I KNOW God exists” is a much different statement. Speaking of it in these different ways mean different things. How we enact that practice and not speak of it as a theory is very interesting to me. That’s surely up for discussion. Sorry if I am being intrusive, but what do you mean when you say that you are a Christian?

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      3. i’m not sure how familiar you are with epistemology, or how interested. it’s about all i’ve done for the last three decades.

        easy enough to google, but no, a genetic fallacy is what i said it is. an ad hominem fallacy is to have no substantive counter argument but to insult the person making his case.

        what you should quickly do is study logic, at least in summary. the only absolutely true things there are are axioms, tautology, and truisms. axioms and tautology are entirely what logic and math are. all absolute truths are trivial. they are true by definition, by form, or by appearance.

        you’re a WLC fan! how could you miss him noting this simple fact? i think he’s even on a youtube video saying there’s nothing inherent to logic that any premise should “flow” to another or to any conclusion.

        inferencing is inferencing, so, i don’t know what you mean by “abductive logic”. maybe you could clear that up for me?

        i’m a christian in that i believe there is a god and christ atones.

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  2. I’m not a Google scholar, Steven, I’m just going off what I’ve learned from the logic courses that I have taken thus far.
    Yeah And I like WLC! By abduction I simply mean an inference to the best explanation. Take the data, look at possible explanations, find out which one is more probable. Go on that journey.
    Hey I have something due at 6 and I just noticed that it’s just noticed that it’s 4:30, so I have to leave for now.
    Give me a follow if you want we can discuss things later, ok?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yeah, i’d love to continue the conversation as you have time.

      i completely get abduction. “likely” would only be the better word than “probable” given there are no priors for god (you might like reading ayer’s LTL).

      my concern is to remove any idea or hope that god is a question which can be proven in any epistemic sense. if we say we x is likely, then we have to admit we are eyeballing things; it’s a statement not about truth but about an impression from the world, what we make of it.

      the keys here then are to say there can be no evidence for deity, and to remind that logic is merely a formal description of how people think, and no amount of formality changes the fact it is still merely thinking about thinking about something, justifying our thinking by how we’re thinking about it (kant).

      these would be things i’d like to explore with you, as owning them completely alters one’s apologetics to something meaningful and spills fully into a meaning theology that flows rather than collides.

      WLC … meh. not a fan, but to each their own, buddy.

      reply as you have time.

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