Miracles and the natural/supernatural distinction

Started by peter_speckhard, April 03, 2024, 05:58:25 PM

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Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: peter_speckhard on April 17, 2024, 11:25:42 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 17, 2024, 08:20:40 PMAn atheist, by definition, is doing theology wrong.

Well that's demonstrably untrue as well. 
But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist. 
Please demonstrate. Show in your scientific way how people who who not believe in God study God better than people who do believe in Him.
[/quote]

Theo-logy in simplest terms is God (theos) talk (logos). People can think and talk about God without believing in God. 
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

I recently heard a friend talk about an emergency he had with his wife. She had a severely allergic reaction to some food - and there were no pharmacies open late at night in their area. An ambulance was called. It so happened that it came with a paramedic who could administer shots. It so happened that it had the particular medication that she needed. (She'd had the reactions before.) How one talks about the event can turn it into a divine miracle or just a happy coincidence. 

It also happened when we moved. A large machine my wife uses was to go in an upstairs loft. We had paid third-parties to disassemble it to move it and another group to reassemble it after it had been moved to the loft. It never got disassembled before getting in the moving van. The driver was pretty sure he could take it apart and move it where we wanted. After putting it in the garage, he looked at it more closely and decided the hydraulics on it were not something he wanted to disassemble. It didn't get carried up to the loft. It's still in the garage. My wife called the manufacturer. It so happened that one of their biggest dealers has a shop 60 miles away. She called them. It so happened that he was going to be in our town for a show in a few days. He'd stop by and check it out. He did. He will bring a crew back and not only take it apart and move it; but reassemble it the right way. (He saw some things wrong.) And will overhaul the machine. Happy coincidences or divine miracle? It depends on how one talks about it. 
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

SomeoneWrites


Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on April 17, 2024, 11:30:14 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on April 17, 2024, 11:25:42 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 17, 2024, 08:20:40 PMAn atheist, by definition, is doing theology wrong.

Well that's demonstrably untrue as well. 
But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist. 
Please demonstrate. Show in your scientific way how people who who not believe in God study God better than people who do believe in Him.

Theo-logy in simplest terms is God (theos) talk (logos). People can think and talk about God without believing in God.
[/quote]

I agree.  I lost my faith, not my capacity to do theology, or the ability to adopt a set of theological presuppositions. 

I said, "But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist." So to be clear, it's not that all of one are better than all of another.  So your request for a demonstration doesn't really apply.  Either way, I would put forth that Bart Erhman studies God at a greater depth and scope than Kent Hovind or Ken Ham.  Also, I would say I study God better than many Christians I know, simply for the fact that they do not study.  Nothing I've said so far has been in conflict with a number of theologians who would also say that they have the proper understanding of Christianity. 

LCMS raised
LCMS theology major
LCMS sem grad
Atheist

Brian Stoffregen

#198
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 17, 2024, 11:46:52 PMI agree.  I lost my faith, not my capacity to do theology, or the ability to adopt a set of theological presuppositions. 

I said, "But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist." So to be clear, it's not that all of one are better than all of another.  So your request for a demonstration doesn't really apply.  Either way, I would put forth that Bart Erhman studies God at a greater depth and scope than Kent Hovind or Ken Ham.  Also, I would say I study God better than many Christians I know, simply for the fact that they do not study.  Nothing I've said so far has been in conflict with a number of theologians who would also say that they have the proper understanding of Christianity.

When I talk about theology in this way, anyone who thinks or speaks about God/gods is doing theology. Their thoughts and words may or may not square with the theology of the Church Fathers and the orthodoxy they created. Their thoughts and words may or may not be have its own inner logic. E.g., "God saves us by grace, but these are the things you have to do to be saved," is a statement that contradicts itself, i.e., is illogical.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

SomeoneWrites

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on April 17, 2024, 11:54:39 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 17, 2024, 11:46:52 PMI agree.  I lost my faith, not my capacity to do theology, or the ability to adopt a set of theological presuppositions. 

I said, "But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist." So to be clear, it's not that all of one are better than all of another.  So your request for a demonstration doesn't really apply.  Either way, I would put forth that Bart Erhman studies God at a greater depth and scope than Kent Hovind or Ken Ham.  Also, I would say I study God better than many Christians I know, simply for the fact that they do not study.  Nothing I've said so far has been in conflict with a number of theologians who would also say that they have the proper understanding of Christianity.

When I talk about theology in this way, anyone who thinks or speaks about God/gods is doing theology. Their thoughts and words may or may not square with the theology of the Church Fathers and the orthodoxy they created. Their thoughts and words may or may not be have its own inner logic. E.g., "God saves us by grace, but these are the things you have to do to be saved," is a statement that contradicts itself, i.e., is illogical.

Very much agreed.  And on top of that, each body of believers (and non believers, and other believers) will also have their own judgements on who's doing good or bad theology. 
LCMS raised
LCMS theology major
LCMS sem grad
Atheist

George Rahn

#200
Anyone can "do" theology.  Studying theology makes one into an observer.  The subject matter, theology, is the object.  It leaves the observer with a complete sense of making judgments all over the place.  If other folks agree, these judgments can become codified through either norm or actual legal precepts.  This gives the scientist control over his study.  And a godlike sense of power and authority.   No one who practices thus will become a subject upon whom a judgement is made.  The observer-scientist reserves the right to believe or not.  And to believe or not that he is in control.  Bunches of these folks are called a public.  They can manufacture their belief systems measuring their criteria blessed by the peer group, ie. Politics.  Like the Pharisees in Jesus' day, the observers control their lives and will by no means undergo judgment by a "higher power."  They believe they can control the public, as well.

Charles Austin

#201
We can define and redefine "theology" until pigs fly. It doesn't matter. As God-talk, almost everyone does it. Pastor Preus brings his own definitions of things and pretends his certainties squish all other views.
Some of the "godless", in my not so humble opinion, do it better that Christian conservatives of the type we frequently encounter today.
Conservatives begin already claiming to know all the answers.
Conservatives begin declaring as heresy "doubt" or "questioning" their established faith.
Conservatives begin with their own "foundations" - Bible, doctrine, tradition - and reject any other foundations for faith and theology.
Conservatives reject my most important theological question of all: Has it ever occurred to you that you may be wrong?
I dare to believe that God can speak to us through the disciplines of science or human experience (wasn't the Exodus human experience?).
I dare to believe that God did not stop speaking when the Bible was compiled (Apocrypha or no Apocrypha?), or when a doctrine was "defined".
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis. Often critical of the ELCA, but more often a defender of its mission. Ignoring the not-so-subtle rude insults which often appear here.

Matt Hummel

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on April 17, 2024, 11:30:14 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on April 17, 2024, 11:25:42 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 17, 2024, 08:20:40 PMAn atheist, by definition, is doing theology wrong.

Well that's demonstrably untrue as well. 
But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist. 
Please demonstrate. Show in your scientific way how people who who not believe in God study God better than people who do believe in Him.

Theo-logy in simplest terms is God (theos) talk (logos). People can think and talk about God without believing in God.
[/quote]

In much the same way that that Flat Earthers are "simply doing geomorphology" or the folks who know that Einstein got it wrong in his math in General Relativity are "simply doing physics." Or the way the aliens built the pyramid folks are "simply doing history."

The fact that I keep my lawnmower in the garage does not make it an automobile.
Matt Hummel


"The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks."

― J.R.R. Tolkien

SomeoneWrites

Quote from: Matt Hummel on April 18, 2024, 06:55:52 AM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on April 17, 2024, 11:30:14 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on April 17, 2024, 11:25:42 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 17, 2024, 08:20:40 PMAn atheist, by definition, is doing theology wrong.

Well that's demonstrably untrue as well. 
But I do think it would be disconcerting if an atheist was doing theology better than a theist. 
Please demonstrate. Show in your scientific way how people who who not believe in God study God better than people who do believe in Him.

Theo-logy in simplest terms is God (theos) talk (logos). People can think and talk about God without believing in God.

In much the same way that that Flat Earthers are "simply doing geomorphology" or the folks who know that Einstein got it wrong in his math in General Relativity are "simply doing physics." Or the way the aliens built the pyramid folks are "simply doing history."

The fact that I keep my lawnmower in the garage does not make it an automobile.
[/quote]

Glad you brought this up.  For one, it shows the differences of theology and the sciences.  Secondly, it speaks to how they're not really doing science (which is a point often made here, but argued against).  Also, flat earthers can be substituted for "young earth creationists" as well as global flood adherents in regards to science.  But Catholics and Lutherans certainly can do science and atheists can certainly do theology.
LCMS raised
LCMS theology major
LCMS sem grad
Atheist

RDPreus

Jesus says, "And you shall know the truth." 
Rev. Austin says, "Conservatives reject my most important theological question of all: Has it ever occurred to you that you may be wrong?"

I have been wrong more times than I can remember, committing errors in thinking, speaking, and doing.  Being wrong emanates from pride.  Whoever exalts himself will be abased.  But God is gracious.  After abasing you, humbling you, showing you that you don't know what you think you know, he exalts you.  Sure, this is eschatological (what isn't?), but it certainly has a contemporary dimension.  He exalts you by his Word!  You hold on to it and God is your righteousness, your truth, your everything.  You live on his Word.  On every Word.  (I think that's where the word plenary comes from).  Standing on your intelligence, on popular opinion, on how you feel, on the consensus of people smarter than you, will yield error upon error.  Remaining in God's Word you will know the truth.  You will know that God is not wrong.

Yes, but did God say?  Yes.  He did.  It's right there in the Bible.

Jesus said, "This is my body."  That's the truth.  Does this mean that those who say that the bread isn't Jesus's body are wrong?  Yes, it does.  They are wrong.  So, you are right, and they are wrong?  Well, we all know where this is going.  It could be justification through faith alone, baptismal regeneration, the use of God's law in the life of the Christian, women pastors, issues pertaining to marriage, universal grace, grace alone, etc.  God speaks.  What he says is true.  If you deny what he says (e.g. justification by faith and works, no baptismal regeneration, limited atonement, etc.) this means you are wrong.  Now, you can be right about some things and wrong about others.  I have read much of great value written Roman Catholics, Calvinists, even Baptists.  This does not mean the errors they teach aren't errors.  And yes, Rev. Austin, if I hold to the truth on a particular matter and someone else holds to an error on that matter, I am right, and he is wrong.  Doesn't that stand to reason?

Doctrinal indifference is not faith.  It's unbelief.  Could I be wrong?  Of course!  This is why my faith must constantly be pushed back to where it was born.  In God's Word!  If you continue in my word, Jesus said.  And when I am saying what God's word is saying and somebody tells me that I could be wrong, well, should I listen to such a voice?

SomeoneWrites

Quote from: RDPreus on April 18, 2024, 11:37:38 AMJesus says, "And you shall know the truth." 
Rev. Austin says, "Conservatives reject my most important theological question of all: Has it ever occurred to you that you may be wrong?"

I have been wrong more times than I can remember, committing errors in thinking, speaking, and doing.  Being wrong emanates from pride.  Whoever exalts himself will be abased.  But God is gracious.  After abasing you, humbling you, showing you that you don't know what you think you know, he exalts you.  Sure, this is eschatological (what isn't?), but it certainly has a contemporary dimension.  He exalts you by his Word!  You hold on to it and God is your righteousness, your truth, your everything.  You live on his Word.  On every Word.  (I think that's where the word plenary comes from).  Standing on your intelligence, on popular opinion, on how you feel, on the consensus of people smarter than you, will yield error upon error.  Remaining in God's Word you will know the truth.  You will know that God is not wrong.

Yes, but did God say?  Yes.  He did.  It's right there in the Bible.

Jesus said, "This is my body."  That's the truth.  Does this mean that those who say that the bread isn't Jesus's body are wrong?  Yes, it does.  They are wrong.  So, you are right, and they are wrong?  Well, we all know where this is going.  It could be justification through faith alone, baptismal regeneration, the use of God's law in the life of the Christian, women pastors, issues pertaining to marriage, universal grace, grace alone, etc.  God speaks.  What he says is true.  If you deny what he says (e.g. justification by faith and works, no baptismal regeneration, limited atonement, etc.) this means you are wrong.  Now, you can be right about some things and wrong about others.  I have read much of great value written Roman Catholics, Calvinists, even Baptists.  This does not mean the errors they teach aren't errors.  And yes, Rev. Austin, if I hold to the truth on a particular matter and someone else holds to an error on that matter, I am right, and he is wrong.  Doesn't that stand to reason?

Doctrinal indifference is not faith.  It's unbelief.  Could I be wrong?  Of course!  This is why my faith must constantly be pushed back to where it was born.  In God's Word!  If you continue in my word, Jesus said.  And when I am saying what God's word is saying and somebody tells me that I could be wrong, well, should I listen to such a voice?

Because you're not saying what God's word is saying.  You're saying what you interpret God's word to be saying. 
LCMS raised
LCMS theology major
LCMS sem grad
Atheist

Charles Austin

I am continuing in God's Word, Pastor Preus.
And you remain more focused - obsessed, even - about the errors of others while holding an arrogant and foolish "I know exactly what God's words are and exactly what they mean" foundation for faith. That is your foundation for faith, not God's.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis. Often critical of the ELCA, but more often a defender of its mission. Ignoring the not-so-subtle rude insults which often appear here.

RDPreus

Quote from: SomeoneWrites on April 18, 2024, 11:58:00 AM
Quote from: RDPreus on April 18, 2024, 11:37:38 AMJesus says, "And you shall know the truth." 
Rev. Austin says, "Conservatives reject my most important theological question of all: Has it ever occurred to you that you may be wrong?"

I have been wrong more times than I can remember, committing errors in thinking, speaking, and doing.  Being wrong emanates from pride.  Whoever exalts himself will be abased.  But God is gracious.  After abasing you, humbling you, showing you that you don't know what you think you know, he exalts you.  Sure, this is eschatological (what isn't?), but it certainly has a contemporary dimension.  He exalts you by his Word!  You hold on to it and God is your righteousness, your truth, your everything.  You live on his Word.  On every Word.  (I think that's where the word plenary comes from).  Standing on your intelligence, on popular opinion, on how you feel, on the consensus of people smarter than you, will yield error upon error.  Remaining in God's Word you will know the truth.  You will know that God is not wrong.

Yes, but did God say?  Yes.  He did.  It's right there in the Bible.

Jesus said, "This is my body."  That's the truth.  Does this mean that those who say that the bread isn't Jesus's body are wrong?  Yes, it does.  They are wrong.  So, you are right, and they are wrong?  Well, we all know where this is going.  It could be justification through faith alone, baptismal regeneration, the use of God's law in the life of the Christian, women pastors, issues pertaining to marriage, universal grace, grace alone, etc.  God speaks.  What he says is true.  If you deny what he says (e.g. justification by faith and works, no baptismal regeneration, limited atonement, etc.) this means you are wrong.  Now, you can be right about some things and wrong about others.  I have read much of great value written Roman Catholics, Calvinists, even Baptists.  This does not mean the errors they teach aren't errors.  And yes, Rev. Austin, if I hold to the truth on a particular matter and someone else holds to an error on that matter, I am right, and he is wrong.  Doesn't that stand to reason?

Doctrinal indifference is not faith.  It's unbelief.  Could I be wrong?  Of course!  This is why my faith must constantly be pushed back to where it was born.  In God's Word!  If you continue in my word, Jesus said.  And when I am saying what God's word is saying and somebody tells me that I could be wrong, well, should I listen to such a voice?

Because you're not saying what God's word is saying.  You're saying what you interpret God's word to be saying. 

Can you not see the arrogance in that statement?  What makes you competent to judge that when I say what God's word is saying I am not really saying what God's word is saying?  I don't believe you've ever made an argument from the biblical text to challenge what you call my interpretation.  You simply assert.  Now, I call that arrogant.  Like denying the existence of God and then claiming that you can speak intelligently about this God who doesn't exist.

Dan Fienen

One of the most important questions for theologians, especially theologians who are called to be under shepherds and guides for others is the question posed above, "Does it every occurred to you that you may be wrong?" Often, it seems to me the implied corollary is that obviously it never occurred to you that you may be wrong because if you had thought about it, you would have realized that you're wrong and agreed with me.

As responsible theologians and especially as responsible church leaders, we need to consider the possibility that we could be wrong. But also as responsible theologians and church leaders we cannot let the possibility of error so paralyze us that we are locked into indecision or follow every passing fad.

As Christian theologians, our fundamental source, data, and evidence for theological knowledge is the Bible. We follow the Bible as God's word and our oaths of office bind us to it as God's authoritative word. And yes, before people pounce, I realize that what I follow is my interpretation of God's word, and others have different interpretations. That is life. All that we have to work with is what we perceive and how we interpret it. We are not infallible in either perception of interpretation. It would be nice if we could wait in a state of suspended belief and decision until we could be more sure or absolutely sure, but we are thrown into this life and often must decide, act, believe before we are absolutely sure.

Instead of absolute certainty, we operate according to due diligence. We need to be aware but not paralyzed by the possibility of error or wishful thinking. In life as well as in theology and churchmanship we develop tools to help us make reasonable decisions. We learn or build paradigms of what we understand the world to be and how to operate within it. If we are wise, we will be cognizant of the possibility that our paradigm is incomplete or even wrong. We are, whether we are aware of it or not, constantly checking with how well or paradigms work, much like a scientist checks hypotheses for whether they are doing a good job of explaining what is observed, predicting future observations (my paradigm suggests that X will happen now, does it?) and allowing me to take useful actions. There will always be a margin of error, but if the observed error becomes too great, it is time to reevaluate some aspect of the paradigm.

One of the most useful college courses I took in my philosophy major was a course in aesthetics, the study of beauty and art. What was useful was not so much the subject matter but that it served as case studies in evaluating and thinking where I had no great investment or concern with the subject matter. I ended up studying not so much art or beauty, but how we think about things. The single most important philosophical book from that time was from a class in the philosophy of science, Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

So, yes, I do consider that I might be wrong. But I do not let that possibility become an obsession, or paralyze me with indecision. I consider that question with what I consider to be due diligence, comparing the challenge to my usual understanding, my paradigm, observing the dissonance between what my usual understanding says with where the challenge suggests I got it wrong, and also considering that the pursuit of truth is ideally not a solitary quest but consulting my peers for their insights, both present peers and past. Also allowing for a reasonable margin of error. There are always exceptions to every rule, but if we let the exceptions rule there will no rules only chaos. It is a way of thinking that has feedback loops to keep things in some semblance of balance and order.

And finally, it is a matter of faith. I consider that it is God who called me into this life, and God who called me into my calling. I trust that God will also help me see my errors.

For those who would challenge me, "For God's sake, have you ever considered that you might be wrong?!?" my response is "Yes, have you?" 
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

RDPreus

Quote from: Charles Austin on April 18, 2024, 12:06:45 PMI am continuing in God's Word, Pastor Preus.
And you remain more focused - obsessed, even - about the errors of others while holding an arrogant and foolish "I know exactly what God's words are and exactly what they mean" foundation for faith. That is your foundation for faith, not God's.

Our own sinful flesh prevents us from understanding God, even when He speaks clearly.  This is why faith is a rotten foundation for faith.  Faith is always plagued by confusion, doubt, and other manifestations of the sinful flesh.  So, we rely, not on knowing exactly (as you put it), but on what God says.  I don't know what hermeneutical principles you were taught at the seminary, but at CTS in Springfield we had a class called Principles of Biblical Interpretation where we went through all sorts of hermeneutical rules.  A rule applicable to this conversation is that we interpret unclear passages in the light of clear ones.  We don't claim to know exactly what the Bible means.  Where it is unclear, we don't assert.  Where it is clear, we do.  And we err in the process!  We preachers, blessed as we are to be spokesmen for Christ, are not the norm of our own teaching!  The sheep must judge their shepherds, as Walther said.  And the faithful shepherd loves being held accountable by those he serves.

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