1. Illinois
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    02 Jan '08 12:094 edits
    "The Christian religion, [Hume] says, cannot at this day be believed by any reasonable person without a miracle. ''Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts* all the principles of his understanding . . .' But of course this is only a joke. What the believer is conscious of in his own person, though it may be a mode of thinking that goes against 'custom and experience', and so is contrary to the ordinary rational principles of the understanding, is not, as an occurrence, a violation of natural law. Rather it is all too easy to explain immediately by the automatic communication of beliefs between persons and the familiar psychological processes of wish fulfilment, and ultimately by what Hume himself was later to call 'the natural history of religion'." (J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God, 28-29)

    * "Subverts" is a bit inaccurate in my view. This suggests that the understanding is being corrupted in some way, while it is completely possible to possess an uncorrupted understanding and recognize the rationality of contrary arguments and yet possess faith in Christ. Perhaps Hume used "subvert" to alert his readers to his joke, but it seems to me a more accurate word might be, "supersedes."

    ____________________________

    Faith, according to Mackie = a subversion of the understanding arising from the psychological process of wish fulfillment.

    Faith, according to the Bible = the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb 11:1,3).

    It's surprising how similar the definitions are. The author of Hebrews, though, goes a step further to suggest faith is the gateway to another sphere of understanding altogether, "by faith we understand..."

    ___________________________

    After reading Mackie I've gained a clearer understanding of why it's impossible to convince anyone of Christ's authenticity. Pure rationality cannot overcome the hurdles which it presupposes and therefore cannot allow faith to be an option. However, as a Christian, having been privy to the knowledge and experience arrived at through faith (but still capable of recognizing the enforced limits of pure rationality), am myself startled by the strength of my faith. Mackie suggests that he can explain what the believer is conscious of, but really he can do so only speculatively, not being in possession of faith himself. The genuine experience of faith enjoyed by most believers is never a subversion of the understanding, but rather a supersession of the understanding. In faith there is a certain assurance which a person of faith immediately recognizes as superior in authority to reason. Scripture would suggest that it is not wish fulfillment which drives faith but rather an invisible source perceived subjectively which is immediately recognizable as having greater authority concerning reality than that which can be arrived at through observation and rationality. Mackie, within the propositional universe of reason, may be able to satisfy himself with apparently obvious explanations for the phenomena of faith, but such speculations inherently deny the possibility of what is invisible and cannot of themselves arrive at the knowledge which faith itself imparts to the believer. Hume's joke may ring true within the realm of pure rationality, but scripture attests that faith itself is indeed a gift; a different and separate faculty altogether for arriving at knowledge of divine "invisible" things. True faith, i.e., faith which supersedes rather than subverts the principles of understanding, according to the Bible, is a miracle.

    Thoughts?
  2. Joined
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    02 Jan '08 17:09
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    "The Christian religion, [Hume] says, cannot at this day be believed by any reasonable person without a miracle. ''Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts* all the principles of his understanding . . .' But of co ...[text shortened]... understanding, according to the Bible, is a miracle.

    Thoughts?
    I agree. Faith is not blind. Faith is the "substance of things hoped for."
    And hope is not just something wished for, but is a sure thing.
  3. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    02 Jan '08 18:05
    Originally posted by josephw

    And hope is not just something wished for, but is a sure thing.
    Is it possible to hope to win the lottery?
  4. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    02 Jan '08 18:17
    Originally posted by epiphinehas

    After reading Mackie I've gained a clearer understanding of why it's impossible to convince anyone of Christ's authenticity.
    But haven't you yourself been convinced of Christ's authenticity?
  5. Subscriberno1marauder
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    02 Jan '08 18:321 edit
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    But haven't you yourself been convinced of Christ's authenticity?
    You have to have the "faith" first, Doc. Just like if you have "faith" that you're the King of France, it's easier to be convinced that you are the King of France. Then you get a clearer understanding of why it's impossible to convince others that you are the King of France if they lack "faith" that you are.
  6. Donationrwingett
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    02 Jan '08 18:36
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    Is it possible to hope to win the lottery?
    Yes, but you only win invisible dollars, which, coincidentally, look just like non-existent dollars.
  7. Standard memberBosse de Nage
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    02 Jan '08 19:52
    Originally posted by no1marauder
    You have to have the "faith" first, Doc. Just like if you have "faith" that you're the King of France, it's easier to be convinced that you are the King of France. Then you get a clearer understanding of why it's impossible to convince others that you are the King of France if they lack "faith" that you are.
    Eventually you are forced, against your will, to use your power to bring these deadbeats into line -- for the good of all, needless to say.
  8. Donationbbarr
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    02 Jan '08 19:54
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    "The Christian religion, [Hume] says, cannot at this day be believed by any reasonable person without a miracle. ''Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which subverts* all the principles of his understanding . . .' But of co ...[text shortened]... understanding, according to the Bible, is a miracle.

    Thoughts?
    That is Mackie's construal of Hume, not Mackie's own view about faith.
  9. Illinois
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    02 Jan '08 21:29
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    But haven't you yourself been convinced of Christ's authenticity?
    Yes, but not by reason.
  10. Standard memberSwissGambit
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    02 Jan '08 22:42
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Yes, but not by reason.
    How do you rule out the possibility that your experiences could also be explained under the guidelines of a different holy book? In other words, if you hear the 'voice of God' speaking to you, how can you tell it's the Protestant-Christian style one, and not one from another religion? To change the hypothetical a bit, if you have an experience like 'peace that surpasses understanding', how do you even know [or even think it likely] that it's from a god at all?

    It seems a bit strange to have these kinds of experiences and yet focus on only one possible belief system to explain them.
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    02 Jan '08 23:47
    You fellas are expert at taking things out of context.
  12. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    03 Jan '08 00:031 edit
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Yes, but not by reason.
    Do you think a human being ought to persist in believing things which he doesn't have reason to believe?
  13. Illinois
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    03 Jan '08 03:18
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    Do you think a human being ought to persist in believing things which he doesn't have reason to believe?
    Are you positively certain that pure reason is the only legitimate avenue to truth? I'm not saying there aren't good reasons to believe Christ's claims, but could faith in the resurrection ever be arrived at by reason alone? After all, no one witnessed Christ's body the moment it passed from death to life, we only have the accounts of those who saw him afterwards. Given this fact, nothing in the realm of reason, no matter how reliable the testimony involved, could ever give sufficient strength to allow one to somehow reason his way into faithful assurance of Christ's resurrection. The limits of reason do not have any bearing on whether miracles are indeed possible, just whether or not we can sufficiently trust a testimony to rationally justify faith (were Christ's resurrection a reality, by the way, this would still be the case). So how could it be possible to arrive at faith without witnessing Christ's resurrection first-hand? The Bible says God rewards those who seek him, and that Christ gives those who believe in him the power to become sons of the living God. The "rewards" of seeking and the "power" gained by believing are reasons in themselves. Rational thought cannot be proven to be the only legitimate source of reason for faith.
  14. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    03 Jan '08 03:35
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Are you positively certain that pure reason is the only legitimate avenue to truth? I'm not saying there aren't good reasons to believe Christ's claims, but could faith in the resurrection ever be arrived at by reason alone? After all, no one witnessed Christ's body the moment it passed from death to life, we only have the accounts of those who saw him ...[text shortened]... tional thought cannot be proven to be the only legitimate source of reason for faith.
    Do you think a human being ought to persist in believing things which he doesn't have reason to believe?
  15. Illinois
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    03 Jan '08 03:48
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    How do you rule out the possibility that your experiences could also be explained under the guidelines of a different holy book? In other words, if you hear the 'voice of God' speaking to you, how can you tell it's the Protestant-Christian style one, and not one from another religion? To change the hypothetical a bit, if you have an experience like 'peac ...[text shortened]... ese kinds of experiences and yet focus on only one possible belief system to explain them.
    Well, in my case, only Christ granted me the "peace which passes all understanding."

    After I could no longer be a strong atheist and became convinced by Emerson and Carlyle of the existence of a transcendent reality (of some sort), I began a personal search for God. If He was really there, then I was going to find him.

    I researched every belief system which I felt some spiritual kinship with, and once considered myself a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Sufi, a Pantheist, exploring the religion of my Native American ancestors, even for a while studying and following several gurus and other so-called masters; U. G. Krishnamurti, Meher Baba, etc.

    What I found was that every religion and variant of mysticism has its pinkie dipped in the fountain of perennial philosophy, and therefore some of the truth can be gleaned from all of them. But it was only Christ (my last option) who introduced me to the "peace which passes all understanding."

    I have known no God, and through my searching I have known some of God, but Christ has given me all of God. There is no more definite a perception than the perception of absolute Truth, and no freedom which compares to knowing Him.
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