Monday, July 18, 2011

Philosophical chatting

Ahh, Gchat! You weren't the first chat vehicle, but you sure do provide a forum for some deep discussions.

As you may have seen, Leah of Unequally Yoked is holding a Turing Test for atheists and Christians to participate. Julie emailed a bunch of Catholic bloggers, informing us of the need for participation and Stacy wrote back with a whole post dedicated to why she cannot take the test.

It's a brilliant explanation and I encourage all of you to read it before continuing.

Did you read it? Okay, good. Now you can read my cop-out.

I read Stacy's explanation and wondered how Stacy managed to reach into my head and tidy up the thoughts that were going through my head when I was struggling with Leah's test! I simply could not vote in Leah's test and it was bothering me.
Don't feel trapped.

First of all, I was a little afraid, which can be a great challenge for faithful individuals. Fear is okay; I assert that it's a good thing. A fearless person of faith hasn't explored enough, if you ask me.

I responded to Stacy with the handy "reply all," thanking her for her words, which also reached Bryan of Calling All Witnesses. He used the ever-powerful Gchat to spark our own response.

Please forgive me for my laziness, but I'm just going to share it with you:
Bryan: Hey! I just saw  your e-mail and I had to log on and tell you that I had that SAME  feeling too!! If we're all feeling that way, there's gotta be something  to that... :)

Me: I agree!

Bryan: There was one that I read and my first reaction was "man, that's gotta be an atheist, because they are way off!"
But  then I thought, "Well, what if that really was a Christian, and they are  either just getting started, or haven't formed their beliefs properly  just yet?"

me:  Exactly! I was thinking the same thing as Stacy and you, but I didn't want to  back down because it would look like fear of the unknown to Leah.
When you break it down like that, you realize Leah might be trying to point out  (either knowingly or unknowingly) that any disagreements among  individual Christians proves that Christianity is so flawed that it  can't be true.

Bryan: Good point. And  in the end, it's not about what you or I think about what the Church  teaches (in the case of Catholicism), it's what the Church in fact  teaches... And why.

me: Bingo.
There  is an ultimate Truth. Getting a consensus on the fact that people  disagree on what that ultimate Truth is doesn't disprove that the  ultimate Truth exists.

Bryan:  Yes! There were a lot of people that thought the Sun revolved around  the Earth.  And when there was disagreement, it didn't mean that there  was no Truth... It meant that the ultimate Truth was that the Earth  revolved around the Sun. Fr. John has a great line about the Earth being round...He says: "You can want the Earth to be flat all you want, but you wanting it to be that way, doesn't make it so!
Bryan pointed out that "Truth transcends time..."  Even if there hasn't been enough time to fully discover the Truth, it still exists. He said that, for example, "'It takes the sperm from a man and an egg from a woman to produce a baby" is true for all people, at all times... two sperm together won't produce a baby and neither will two eggs."

As Stacy pointed out, Leah took care to be fair and keep things balanced in this little experiment. I don't think she purposefully targeted faith as if it's an object sitting in a room, waiting to be ridiculed, as evidenced by her commitment to understand her boyfriend's Catholic faith over the last year.

We should take these strides to understand one another, but we need to recognize that in many ways, we're not speaking the same language with the same definitions.

"Where (I) am going you know the way."(John 14:4)


Stacy Trasancos said...

Excellent! Thank you! "If we're all feeling that way, there's gotta be something to that... :)"

Yep! I think that's it. My husband and I talked about it this morning and he said almost the same thing.

(OK...I don't know even do Twitter very well and now you are talking about Gchat? Ugh.)

Louise said...

Excellent evaluation, Elizabeth! And thank you for the link to Stacy's post, too. I felt the same way. I did vote in the "pretending to be atheist" round, but I could not bring myself to vote this time. I started reading a few of the entries, and I had the exact same reaction to some of them -- they seemed "way off," but like Bryan said, maybe the writers are just getting started or hasn't formed their beliefs properly yet. And I'd hate to come to the conclusion that such a person was an atheist just because he or she wasn't able to perfectly articulate the truth.

Anthony S. Layne said...

"When you break it down like that, you realize Leah might be trying to point out (either knowingly or unknowingly) that any disagreements among individual Christians proves that Christianity is so flawed that it can't be true."

Oh yeah, fairly common tactic. I've been arguing with an atheist/agnostic all day, and he threw the "38,000 denominations" number at me a couple of times for pretty much the same reason. But we both agree on at least one thing: It all depends on what presuppositions you start out with. Your conclusion speaks to the same thing: Sometimes you have to lay out definitions in common before you can even begin to argue with each other, let alone understand one another.

Great post, Elizabeth!

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