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#128 Christian Faith

September 28, 2009

Hi Mr. Craig,

I am still struggling with this christian view because it seems to me logically incoherent. However you think otherwise. Here's some ideas that I can't get my head around.

God is supposed to be infinite, but if he is, then how can he be described in finite terms such as loving, caring, or even a "He"?

You also argue that out of nothing, nothing comes. Although I think this is a good argument for God's creation of the universe, I can't seem to use it as a logical explanation for my own sentient existence and soul. I can't remember when I didn't exist, so does that mean I've always existed? Or do I have a finite beginning and a finite end? Or do I have a finite beginning and no end?

I am also at a loss for our purpose of life. I agree with you that if there is no god, there are no objective moral values, and hence absolutely no point to life. Nihilism and atheism go hand in hand to me. The christian assertion that says that the reason for our existence is to love and serve the lord would make sense to me if i understood why we are necessary beings. Since god is infinite, why would he have a need or even a want to produce finite beings?

I will concede that I think everybody has their own faith of almost everything, including religion, history, math, and the sciences. People make judgements of history, based on their faith that the documented history is correct. Thus, I think that so called scientific empiricists such as Richard Dawkins are faulty in their own beliefs in saying that science or history is empirical because their conclusions are really bound by elements of faith. In reality, I think that documented history, science, religion, can only be viewed upon with faith before things such as cameras, photos and videos; and even those are subject to forgery or alteration. This leaves me with an agnostic view; it is impossible for me or anyone else to truly know and assert that they understand or know anything, other than what is going on in the finite present of each of our first-person experiences. Therefore I think only the present is empirical.

However, we seem naturally to disobey this logical conclusion which doesn't seem logical OR illogical to me; I have encountered a paradox. If everybody took this extreme view of agnosticism, there would be chaos, and no progress of things such as science, history, or math. Because if we can't even trust our own memories, there can be no progress of any kind that can't be logically doubted. As I am writing this, I feel like I am answering my own question about faith, and that even faith can be empirical paradoxically. But I would like your perspective on the matter.

I hope you can shed some light on these ideas



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    Dr. craig’s response

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    I think I can help shed some light on these questions, Tom, so I’m glad you asked them. After reading my answers you will hopefully see that the Christian faith is not at all incoherent but truly helps us make better sense of the world.

    First, terms like “loving” and “caring” do not imply finitude. There’s no reason to think that an infinite being cannot be caring or loving. Maybe you’re confusing “infinite” with “indeterminate,” thinking that an infinite being can’t have specific properties. But that’s not what “infinite” means in this context. To talk of God’s being infinite just means that God has such superlative properties as necessity, self-existence, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, moral perfection, and so on. In fact, God’s being morally perfect entails that He is loving and caring (Question #123)! As for God’s being a “He,” Jesus taught us to think of God (who as an incorporeal being has no gender) under the metaphor of a Heavenly Father and, hence, a “He,” because this metaphor conveys both loving parental care as well as parental authority.

    Second, absent any evidence for reincarnation or pre-existence of the soul, there’s no reason to think that you existed prior to your conception. Since you began to exist, it follows that you must have had a cause of your coming to be, since, as you say, something can’t come into being out of nothing. That needn’t have been God; perhaps it was just your parents. On a naturalistic worldview you have a finite beginning and a finite end, as you put it; you face inevitable extinction. But the Christian faith holds that you have a finite beginning but no end: you will exist forever.

    Third, the Christian faith offers a coherent view of life’s purpose. The purpose of life in general is, in the wonderful words of the Westminster Catechism, to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You are a personal being , made in God’s image, and it is in relation to the personal God that the fulfillment of human existence is to be found. God is infinite goodness and love, and you will find your deepest longings met in Him. This does not mean that we are, as you say, necessary beings. God does not need us for His own fulfillment; as the supreme good He finds that in Himself. We are created not for God’s benefit but for ours, that we might experience the joy of personal relationship with Him. In freely creating us for our good, God is glorified as self-giving love.

    Fourth, your claim that one can know only “what is going on in the finite present of each of our first-person experiences” will, as you seem to realize, ultimately bog down in an effete and self-refuting scepticism. In fact, it would reduce human existence to almost the lowest form of animal life, a slug-like existence that simply takes in and mindlessly reacts to current sense impressions. It is the glory of man as a rational being that we can reflect on our experience and come to know the world in which we live. There’s just no reason to agree with the sceptic that we have no knowledge of the world. The sceptic should be more sceptical of his scepticism! The nerve of scepticism is cut once we realize that the sceptic is presupposing that in order to know some proposition p, we must know that we know that p. Not only is that an implausible demand on what knowledge is (I can know something without knowing that I know it) but, worse, the sceptic cannot justifiably place this demand upon us, since he, as a sceptic, cannot claim know that in order to know p, one must know that one knows that p! The sceptic thus presupposes knowledge in his denial of knowledge. For more on the subject of religious epistemology, I highly recommend Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief.

    It’s my sincere hope that these answers to your questions will bring clarity to your understanding of the Christian faith and help you move another step closer to knowing God through Christ.

    - William Lane Craig