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Author Topic: Proofs for the Existence of God  (Read 6412 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 04, 2010, 01:11:20 PM »

Do proofs/arguments for the existence of God have any place in Eastern Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2010, 01:33:22 PM »

One view was expressed by St. Justin Popovich...

"The so-called logical evidence for the existence of God is: the cosmological, theological, psychological, historical, ethical proofs, and many more, which, through the passing of time have been formulated into philosophical rationalism. They cannot, in the Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church, have a value of real evidence because they are based on the principles of the relative, limited, sinful minds and senses of humanity. To the Church and the Revelation, the truth about the existence of God is an illogical and irrational hypothesis..." (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, p. 202)

As for myself, I must admit that I do not find most of the usual arguments for God's existence to be persuasive. I might get just a tad bit of something from the teleological argument. However, my main reason for believing would probably be classified as religious experience: I just feel like there is something other, something more going on in the universe than meets the eye; something inside me just naturally wants there to be a God. And of the admittedly limited study that I've done, Christianity just seems to me to best fit the bill for what that "other," or Who that God, could be. Others might disagree, but I do think it's noteworthy that the two biggest vote-getters in the poll that we had on the subject were "A Personal Experience" and "I Just Believe".
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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2010, 01:56:19 PM »

One view was expressed by St. Justin Popovich...

"The so-called logical evidence for the existence of God is: the cosmological, theological, psychological, historical, ethical proofs, and many more, which, through the passing of time have been formulated into philosophical rationalism. They cannot, in the Dogmatics of the Orthodox Church, have a value of real evidence because they are based on the principles of the relative, limited, sinful minds and senses of humanity. To the Church and the Revelation, the truth about the existence of God is an illogical and irrational hypothesis..." (Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, p. 202)
This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks I have with regard to Eastern Orthodoxy.  Sad
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« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2010, 02:09:15 PM »


Really?  How so?
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2010, 02:30:08 PM »

I think it takes a little irrationality to be Orthodox. Converting to Orthodoxy can be a steep and rugged ascent for people inclined towards the intellectual side of things. Not always, but sometimes.
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2010, 03:02:08 PM »

I think that proving the existence of God using nothing more than human logic, intuition, and scientific inquiry is akin to proving some principle of calculus using only arithmetic.  It can't be done.  Calculus transcends arithmetic.  (Which is kinda the whole point of our discovery of the calculus in the first place: "lower" math couldn't answer questions for which there should have been answers.)

If we regard the mere concept of God as transcending our physicality, then the question of His existence we must acknowledge a priori can't be definitively answered using our physical existence alone (to include our mind).
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2010, 03:05:48 PM »


Really?  How so?
Please don't take this as an insult because I am not using this to score points. But for an outsider it appears that to enter the EO Church one must check his/her brain at the door. How can I love and serve God if I don't know if he exists? In the western frame work its much easier for me to love God because I know he exists.

Keep in mind I am not trying to score Easter vs. West points here, but  I do pray and hope for an eventual reunion, however that might be accomplished. I am just confused about this particular aspect of the East and how an honest and seeking person can know Christianity is true, if there is no way to know it.
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2010, 03:06:36 PM »

I think it takes a little irrationality to be Orthodox. Converting to Orthodoxy can be a steep and rugged ascent for people inclined towards the intellectual side of things. Not always, but sometimes.
I usually see this as super-rationality rather than irrationality. But that is my Western mind I suppose.
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« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2010, 03:14:52 PM »

Keep in mind I am not trying to score Easter vs. West points here, but  I do pray and hope for an eventual reunion, however that might be accomplished. I am just confused about this particular aspect of the East and how an honest and seeking person can know Christianity is true, if there is no way to know it.

Orthodoxy teaches that you can know that God exists, but it's just not primarily through logical reasoning. Perhaps this post begins to give an answer that I would also give on this thread. To summarize what I said in the link, people can know that Christianity is true through living the life in Christ and being led "further up and further in" by God.
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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2010, 03:20:31 PM »


Really?  How so?
Please don't take this as an insult because I am not using this to score points. But for an outsider it appears that to enter the EO Church one must check his/her brain at the door. How can I love and serve God if I don't know if he exists? In the western frame work its much easier for me to love God because I know he exists.

Keep in mind I am not trying to score Easter vs. West points here, but  I do pray and hope for an eventual reunion, however that might be accomplished. I am just confused about this particular aspect of the East and how an honest and seeking person can know Christianity is true, if there is no way to know it.

Your question is a fair one. I personally see of no rational way to know that there is a God.

I'm currently taking an Astronomy class, and as is natural in the study of Astronomy, the discussion of the origins of the Universe came up. Of course the Big Bang theory basically says that there were a bunch of gases that were just there, and all of the sudden this energy came along, and badda-bing badda-boom (yes, I'm from Jersey  laugh ) you've got the beginning of the Universe.

My question is, "Since matter cannot be created nor destroyed, where did these gases and this energy come from?"

Scientists don't know. It just "is."

In my mind, this points to a Creator, i.e. God.

For me, another affirmation is the martyrdom of the Apostles. Eleven out of twelve went to not-so-fun deaths for Christ. They did not win fame, fortune, power, or glory for bearing witness to the Gospel, yet they did it anyway. In my mind, this points towards the validity of Christianity.

I am not an authority on the subject; never claimed to be. I'm sure there's some Desert Father out there who has written something on a scroll about the existence of God. I'm just not familiar with it.

I suppose in my search for the right faith, I had sorted out the existence of God before I came to understand the validity of Orthodoxy. At the time it was about finding the Church Christ had established; not about finding Christ.

I hope this makes sense. Smiley

Out of curiosity, what have the Fathers of the Catholic Church written on the subject?
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« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2010, 03:25:00 PM »

Quote
I'm sure there's some Desert Father out there who has written something on a scroll about the existence of God. I'm just not familiar with it.

The closest I've found is the following...

"One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, 'You have not understood it.' Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, 'How would you explain this saying?' and he replied, 'I do not know.' Then Abba Anthony said, 'Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: 'I do not know.'" - Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Anthony, 17

Yes, I know I'm betraying my proclivity for doubt and not being sure. Wink
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« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2010, 03:25:41 PM »



Out of curiosity, what have the Fathers of the Catholic Church written on the subject?
Well, Romans 1:20 says that we can know that God exists based on the things he has created. This might leave some space for the first cause argument and the design argument. That being said, I will look up more patristic citations from Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma tonight.
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« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2010, 03:26:35 PM »

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« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2010, 04:39:13 PM »



Really?  How so?
Please don't take this as an insult because I am not using this to score points. But for an outsider it appears that to enter the EO Church one must check his/her brain at the door. How can I love and serve God if I don't know if he exists? In the western frame work its much easier for me to love God because I know he exists.
  (Bold emphasis mine)

I'm not insulted...just curious.  I am Orthodox...and I KNOW that God exists.  Why do think that only Catholics are 100% certain that God exists? 

Who told you that Orthodox are not sure that God exists?  Where did you get this idea from? 

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« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2010, 04:58:12 PM »

I believe he (Papist) is confusing a purely rational proof with knowledge, it's a common problem in Western (and especially modern) thought. 
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« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2010, 05:11:10 PM »

The Fall of humanity, sin and death, tell us that God inspired the bible - the bible is true, and that He does indeed exist.

And that He came in the flesh to restore fallen man.

I am reading 'Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave' Its a fascinating read, and they explain it to you about the existence of God in the Eastern orthodox Fashion.

Great book. it was only $18, worth more than every penny.
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« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2010, 06:11:04 PM »

I believe he (Papist) is confusing a purely rational proof with knowledge, it's a common problem in Western (and especially modern) thought. 
Well, I agree that you can "know" things without a deductive knowledge. For example, we know intuitively that propostions are true if the predicate is included in the essence/nature of the subject. We also now things by apprehending them without comprehending them.

But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.
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« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2010, 06:12:55 PM »



Really?  How so?
Please don't take this as an insult because I am not using this to score points. But for an outsider it appears that to enter the EO Church one must check his/her brain at the door. How can I love and serve God if I don't know if he exists? In the western frame work its much easier for me to love God because I know he exists.
  (Bold emphasis mine)

I'm not insulted...just curious.  I am Orthodox...and I KNOW that God exists.  Why do think that only Catholics are 100% certain that God exists? 

Who told you that Orthodox are not sure that God exists?  Where did you get this idea from? 


Well, there is "knowing" and "knowing". LOL. The problem with "knowing" in the way you are discussing is that Muslims "know" their faith is true, as do mormons, Jehovah's witness, Hindus, etc. etc etc.
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« Reply #18 on: May 04, 2010, 06:38:00 PM »

I believe he (Papist) is confusing a purely rational proof with knowledge, it's a common problem in Western (and especially modern) thought.  
Well, I agree that you can "know" things without a deductive knowledge. For example, we know intuitively that propostions are true if the predicate is included in the essence/nature of the subject. We also now things by apprehending them without comprehending them.

But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.

It really depends on the person and the influences working on that person.  Proofs of God's existence have long been expounded, but people have been free to quite simply disbelieve.  Pharaoh saw several first-hand demonstrations of the existence and power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet still had his heart hardened.  Aquinas' proofs have existed since the Middle Ages and are yet thought to be disproved in modern philosophy, along with Descartes' later rationalist proofs.  A rational argument may appear to get one out of circular reasoning, when in reality all it does is make the circle much larger.

A rational proof can shore up an already existing belief, but have little to no actual benefit toward the conversion of a soul.  At the end of the day reason is fallible and subject to the whimsies and vagaries of human fashion and man-made tradition, which are always directed to lead the soul away from God.   Something more is required, which may appear to the hyper-rationalist to be something "less".

At the end of the day, it is more important to know God than to "know" God exists.  This requires, more than anything, a surrender; surrender of the heart, the body, and the intellect.
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« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2010, 06:41:17 PM »

I believe he (Papist) is confusing a purely rational proof with knowledge, it's a common problem in Western (and especially modern) thought.  
Well, I agree that you can "know" things without a deductive knowledge. For example, we know intuitively that propostions are true if the predicate is included in the essence/nature of the subject. We also now things by apprehending them without comprehending them.

But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.

It really depends on the person and the influences working on that person.  Proofs of God's existence have long been expounded, but people have been free to quite simply disbelieve.  Pharaoh saw several first-hand demonstrations of the existence and power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet still had his heart hardened.  Aquinas' proofs have existed since the Middle Ages and are yet thought to be disproved in modern philosophy, along with Descartes' later rationalist proofs.  A rational argument may appear to get one out of circular reasoning, when in reality all it does is make the circle much larger.

A rational proof can shore up an already existing belief, but have little to no actual benefit toward the conversion of a soul.  At the end of the day reason is fallible and subject to the whimsies and vagaries of human fashion and man-made tradition, which are always directed to lead the soul away from God.   Something more is required, which may appear to the hyper-rationalist to be something "less".

At the end of the day, it is more important to know God than to "know" God exists.  This requires, more than anything, a surrender; surrender of the heart, the body, and the intellect.
From the EO perspective, how does one know which "god" to surrender to?
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« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2010, 07:45:22 PM »

But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.

...so, do the Roman Catholics have a rational argument that will prove to the world the actual existence of God?

Wink
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« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2010, 07:46:03 PM »


But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.

...so, do the Roman Catholics have a rational argument that will prove to the world the actual existence of God?
They have arguments that satisfy me rationally, enough so that faith is not blind jump in dark. I am not sure if they will satisfy all.

Again, I am not trying to score East vs. West points here. I am just trying to understand the Eastern perspective.
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« Reply #22 on: May 04, 2010, 08:35:25 PM »

But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.

They have arguments that satisfy me rationally, enough so that faith is not blind jump in dark.

I don't really see how using rational arguments gets you out of the impasse. How do you know for sure that rational arguments accurately reflect reality? Isn't everything a shot in the dark, at least for a while?
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« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2010, 09:41:43 PM »

But my point is this: A rational argument is the only way to demonstrate that God exists without devolving into circular reasoning.

They have arguments that satisfy me rationally, enough so that faith is not blind jump in dark.

I don't really see how using rational arguments gets you out of the impasse. How do you know for sure that rational arguments accurately reflect reality? Isn't everything a shot in the dark, at least for a while?

Sure it is.  I don't think I've ever read any of the logical arguments for the existence of God.  Maybe I am intellectually lazy.  It does take work to wade through them, and I get bored. 

I don't get bored wading through other logical explanations of things and I love St. Thomas Aquinas but I just won't read his logical explanations for the existence of God.

I guess I just don't want to tinker with something that ain't broke.... angel

On the other hand I know people who have moved form atheism to a religious conversion on account of such presentations.  Takes all kinds.

M.
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« Reply #24 on: May 04, 2010, 09:47:29 PM »

How can I love and serve God if I don't know if he exists?

Why would you love and serve something that doesn't exist?  I would think that knowledge of something would automatically precede loving and/or serving it.  Are you suggesting that many Christians love and serve God but doubt His existence?  Then why love and serve Him in the first place? 
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« Reply #25 on: May 04, 2010, 10:16:11 PM »

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« Reply #26 on: May 04, 2010, 10:17:17 PM »

I just realized that this thread could be damaging to people's faith and I most certainly don't want to do that. God forgive me if I have hurt anyone. And I ask the forgiveness anyone I may have hurt with this thread.
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« Reply #27 on: May 04, 2010, 10:22:56 PM »

I'm not sure what St. Justin meant exactly, but proofs of God do have a place in Orthodoxy. The cosmological proof, for instance, is used all over the place. Now, I don't think we have a systematic presentation of proofs on par with the Latin scholastics, but they do have a place. Also, check out I.M. Andreyev's Orthodox Apologetic Theology, which is available online.
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« Reply #28 on: May 04, 2010, 10:24:21 PM »

I'm not sure what St. Justin meant exactly, but proofs of God do have a place in Orthodoxy. The cosmological proof, for instance, is used all over the place. Now, I don't think we have a systematic presentation of proofs on par with the Latin scholastics, but they do have a place. Also, check out I.M. Andreyev's Orthodox Apologetic Theology, which is available online.
Cool. I thought I saw a proof in St. John of Damascus' "On the Orthodox Faith"
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« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2011, 02:47:55 PM »

I think proofs are more useful for the purpose of demonstrating that a belief in God is not irrational or illogical, but none of them are ever going to "proove" that God exists.
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« Reply #30 on: January 31, 2011, 05:32:07 PM »

I suppose the only surefire way to be convinced of God's existence is to experience His workings. Anecdotal or experiential evidence never flies in an actual debate, but it converts millions.
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« Reply #31 on: January 31, 2011, 07:52:23 PM »

Lets face it, the question is not "does God exist?" The real question is Does God exist or doesn't he? "A" or "B". True or false. No middle ground. No fall back position. Every thing you are and everything you ever will be depends on answering this question correctly. Good luck.
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« Reply #32 on: January 31, 2011, 08:20:34 PM »

I'm not sure what St. Justin meant exactly, but proofs of God do have a place in Orthodoxy. The cosmological proof, for instance, is used all over the place. Now, I don't think we have a systematic presentation of proofs on par with the Latin scholastics, but they do have a place. Also, check out I.M. Andreyev's Orthodox Apologetic Theology, which is available online.
Cool. I thought I saw a proof in St. John of Damascus' "On the Orthodox Faith"


Correct, On the Orthodox Faith 1.3:  "Proof that there is a God."   Teleological and cosmological principles are found throughout patristic writings, albeit, not necessarily in the systematic way as the philosophical "arguments" that we find in secular religious philosophy classes.  
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« Reply #33 on: January 31, 2011, 08:27:22 PM »

I'm not sure what St. Justin meant exactly, but proofs of God do have a place in Orthodoxy. The cosmological proof, for instance, is used all over the place. Now, I don't think we have a systematic presentation of proofs on par with the Latin scholastics, but they do have a place. Also, check out I.M. Andreyev's Orthodox Apologetic Theology, which is available online.
Cool. I thought I saw a proof in St. John of Damascus' "On the Orthodox Faith"


Correct, On the Orthodox Faith 1.3:  "Proof that there is a God."   Teleological and cosmological principles are found throughout patristic writings, albeit, not necessarily in the systematic way as the philosophical "arguments" that we find in secular religious philosophy classes.  

So, why does it appear that modern Eastern Orthodoxy tends to have a distaste for proofs for the existence of God? Where does this come from?
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« Reply #34 on: January 31, 2011, 08:41:18 PM »

I'm not sure what St. Justin meant exactly, but proofs of God do have a place in Orthodoxy. The cosmological proof, for instance, is used all over the place. Now, I don't think we have a systematic presentation of proofs on par with the Latin scholastics, but they do have a place. Also, check out I.M. Andreyev's Orthodox Apologetic Theology, which is available online.
Cool. I thought I saw a proof in St. John of Damascus' "On the Orthodox Faith"
Correct, On the Orthodox Faith 1.3:  "Proof that there is a God."   Teleological and cosmological principles are found throughout patristic writings, albeit, not necessarily in the systematic way as the philosophical "arguments" that we find in secular religious philosophy classes.  
So, why does it appear that modern Eastern Orthodoxy tends to have a distaste for proofs for the existence of God? Where does this come from?
   Overkill against the "western captivity," along with selective patristic reading.  But more specifically, it is simply the modern trend, particularly in America and France, for example, to adhere to a few certain writers as if they "speak for Orthodoxy."   In the end, the fact that proofs are not necessary does not mean that they are not beneficial.   Orthodoxy emphasizes that to one who knows God, no proof is needed.   But these "proofs" such as offered in St. John of Damascus are helpful in bringing some people to a place where they will be willing to "come and see," and taste of Lord's goodness, and come to know Him in the Holy Mysteries, whereas otherwise they would not.   That is why St. John puts in in De Fide, and why we should not forsake these altogether.   
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« Reply #35 on: January 31, 2011, 09:11:45 PM »

I'm not sure what St. Justin meant exactly, but proofs of God do have a place in Orthodoxy. The cosmological proof, for instance, is used all over the place. Now, I don't think we have a systematic presentation of proofs on par with the Latin scholastics, but they do have a place. Also, check out I.M. Andreyev's Orthodox Apologetic Theology, which is available online.
Cool. I thought I saw a proof in St. John of Damascus' "On the Orthodox Faith"
Correct, On the Orthodox Faith 1.3:  "Proof that there is a God."   Teleological and cosmological principles are found throughout patristic writings, albeit, not necessarily in the systematic way as the philosophical "arguments" that we find in secular religious philosophy classes.  
So, why does it appear that modern Eastern Orthodoxy tends to have a distaste for proofs for the existence of God? Where does this come from?
   Overkill against the "western captivity," along with selective patristic reading.  But more specifically, it is simply the modern trend, particularly in America and France, for example, to adhere to a few certain writers as if they "speak for Orthodoxy."   In the end, the fact that proofs are not necessary does not mean that they are not beneficial.   Orthodoxy emphasizes that to one who knows God, no proof is needed.   But these "proofs" such as offered in St. John of Damascus are helpful in bringing some people to a place where they will be willing to "come and see," and taste of Lord's goodness, and come to know Him in the Holy Mysteries, whereas otherwise they would not.   That is why St. John puts in in De Fide, and why we should not forsake these altogether.   
Father, thank you for the response. I was hoping that the truth of the matter was somewhere along the lines of what you described.
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« Reply #36 on: January 31, 2011, 09:42:05 PM »

Lets face it, the question is not "does God exist?" The real question is Does God exist or doesn't he? "A" or "B". True or false. No middle ground. No fall back position. Every thing you are and everything you ever will be depends on answering this question correctly. Good luck.

Both A and B from our perspective are non provable. There are arguments for and against both but none are conclusive. The best we can hope for is faith. Fore or against. If we knew for sure. Faith wouldn't be needed and scripture wouldn't ask for our faith as a requirement. Those who say god doesn't exist have faith in an Idea of non-existence rather than proof. There faith is projected onto the idea of there wanting.
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« Reply #37 on: January 31, 2011, 09:44:50 PM »

Those who say god doesn't exist have faith in an Idea of non-existence rather than proof. There faith is projected onto the idea of there wanting.

There's a difference between believing that God doesn't exist, and lacking belief in a God.
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« Reply #38 on: January 31, 2011, 09:52:09 PM »

Those who say god doesn't exist have faith in an Idea of non-existence rather than proof. There faith is projected onto the idea of there wanting.

There's a difference between believing that God doesn't exist, and lacking belief in a God.
Too many lifetimes have been wasted sitting on that fence.
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« Reply #39 on: January 31, 2011, 09:53:55 PM »

Those who say god doesn't exist have faith in an Idea of non-existence rather than proof. There faith is projected onto the idea of there wanting.

There's a difference between believing that God doesn't exist, and lacking belief in a God.
Too many lifetimes have been wasted sitting on that fence.

I don't consider my life wasted, but you're certainly entitled to your opinion Smiley
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« Reply #40 on: January 31, 2011, 09:57:21 PM »

Those who say god doesn't exist have faith in an Idea of non-existence rather than proof. There faith is projected onto the idea of there wanting.

There's a difference between believing that God doesn't exist, and lacking belief in a God.
Too many lifetimes have been wasted sitting on that fence.

I don't consider my life wasted, but you're certainly entitled to your opinion Smiley
Too much of mine was.
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« Reply #41 on: January 31, 2011, 10:03:25 PM »

Those who say god doesn't exist have faith in an Idea of non-existence rather than proof. There faith is projected onto the idea of there wanting.

There's a difference between believing that God doesn't exist, and lacking belief in a God.

It's the same thing said differently. To me your prospective has to change. If you had contact with god and are now moving away because you don't like him than yes. One has to make contact first in order to view thing that way. Having not made contact one moves forward instead of backwards.
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Excellence of character, then, is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect.
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