Monthly Archives: May 2014

What is primary in Christianity?

Things that are likely candidates for being primary in Christianity are things like a) the process of discernment – techniques and tools and skills to do this, b) cultivating a sense of grace in one’s life which then affects one’s daily actions and habitual states (which flows from a trusting relationship with God of a certain sort and an accurate understanding of one’s own abilities, i.e., humility of a certain kind), c) developing non-attachment to various stuff (and instead putting God in first place), d) incorporating central metaphors in Christianity such as God as Abba (Father) or us as descendents of a spiritual King (i.e., Princes or Princesses), and so on.

(This is not to say these Christian ideas are correct or more useful than certain other ideas. It is rather to say these sorts of things are what are primary to Christianity.)

Things that aren’t primary in Christianity are i) the exact nature of the Holy Trinity, and in particular what is the exact relationship of God the Son to God the Father, ii) how exactly God is an omni-God and what exactly this means, iii) the veracity of this or that verse from the Old Testament, and so on.

Many critiques of Christianity focus on what according to this pragmatic understanding of Christianity are theological minutiae or over-emphasize canonical scriptural elements. These critiques are essentially misled because Christianity isn’t primarily about these things. The critiques often stem from a misunderstanding within Christianity itself, which emphasizes the i) – iii) group’s sort of issues.

Also see here.

The Christian forest for the trees

There are some who want to conceive of Christianity in terms of, say, abstract, theological notions of the nature of the Holy Trinity.

Yet, if anything is at the core of Christianity, a guide to it is not these theological disputes but things like Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Love, Joy, and so on.

I.e., things like the fruit of the Holy Spirit are probably one of the best guides to what is at the core of Christianity.

Also see here.

What is the significance of a scientific consensus?

Is it reasonable to go from ‘x is the current scientific consensus, to the extent one can be detected’ to ‘it is warranted to believe that x is true’?

Some considerations.

1. Scientific consensuses change.

The consensus in cosmology was that there was a steady-state universe, then the consensus in cosmology was an expanding universe. Similarly, the consensus in geology was that mountains built up through sedimentation, then the consensus was that mountains built up through interactions of moving tectonic plates. And so on.

The list of scientific consensuses that turned out to be wrong, and which in many cases were replaced by significantly different theories, is long.

(The changes weren’t just refinements of a given view, but often dramatic shifts in how facts were brought together to form a picture of how the universe works or how events transpired.)

We are warranted – through a process of induction – in thinking we have little reason to think we are in some unique period of history now where we have all the answers.

This leads to

2. So, in many cases the current scientific consensus will turn out to be wrong, and often significantly wrong.

The question then is how to determine which case one’s in for a given consensus (relevantly correct, relevantly incorrect?).

There are several signs which suggest a given state of knowledge is incomplete.

a) Is it reasonable to believe that there is a large amount of relevant data that isn’t known yet?

b) Are important aspects of a theory not robustly testable (and tested) yet?

If so, it might be reasonable to think the theory doesn’t capture the terrain exactly right in those areas where it lacks robust testability.

c) Is the area of knowledge rapidly changing?

Obviously, this is a sign that our knowledge of the area is incomplete to some significant degree.

(Theoretical momentum can often lead one astray. For example, you might start explaining things fairly well using a mechanism. It might be tempting to leap to the conclusion that all things can be explained in this way. This is probably an unjustified leap.)

A response might be made that, yes, scientific consensuses are often wrong, and indeed a given one in question may likely be wrong (given considerations like a) to c) ), but nonetheless it is the most reasonable position that can be arrived at to this point.

Is this true? No.

If one has a specific reason to reject a consensus, that reason must be evaluated on its merits. This is because there are ways to know things or considerations that bear on a given theory that may lie outside the scope of the theorists from which the consensus is derived.

Therefore, a consensus can only be a rough guide to what might be the most reasonable position at a given time.

‘Christianity’ cannot be true

‘Christianity’ cannot be true because Christianity contains conflicting claims.

When someone says Christianity is true, what they mean is that a specific set of beliefs, ideas, practices, and so on – out of the many that form Christianity – is true, useful, and so on.

Similarly, when someone says that God exists, they mean a specific conception of God.

So, if you say that Christianity is true, you are saying a specific conception of Christianity is true.

Also see here.

What is the essence of materialism?

Materialism in its coherent version is essentially chronological, not metaphysical.

That is, materialism says there is mind, but mind (in some way related to the development of the brain) comes about through evolution, and is therefore a relatively late development in the universe.

This is contra the position that mind is at the beginning of the universe, i.e., the typical Christian view.

More specifically, in Christianity, mind in some sense creates the order in the universe, whereas in materialism mind is created by an ordering of the universe.

I.e., ‘materialism’ isn’t about what there is, but about when certain kinds of things came about.