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Discussion 1 to Meditation 605
The Argument of Contradiction and the Argument of Deliberation

by: Will Petillo

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In understanding or defending the Bible, it is important to establish whether one is taking the Bible literally or metaphorically.  This was not specified in the challenge, so I shall take you up on it with both a literalist defense and a metaphorical sense and if either of these defenses are sound then I should get the $100.  Since the prize is only offered to the first person to succeed at the challenge, however, I will not expect to receive $200 if both defenses are sound.*

Let us start with a literal approach to the Bible. 

In a logical system based on a contradiction, literally everything is true.  The Bible contains many contradictions.  Therefore, if one bases one’s logical system on the Bible, the possible resulting conclusions are unlimited and therefore must contain the Word of God in its entirety, since nothing can be excluded from everything.  Furthermore, in a belief system where everything is true, anything can, in a complete and valid, logically unassailable manner, be defended from accusations of error.

Now for the metaphorical approach, which is infinitely more interesting. 

If one is willing to assign non-literal meanings to the Bible (i.e. metaphorical interpretations), any literal contradiction can be avoided through sufficiently skillful analysis.  Such an analysis, however, would require lengthy interpretation of every story in the Bible and this task is far too lengthy for our purposes here, so for now, I shall simply assume that it could hypothetically be done.  Although a non-literal interpretation of the Bible allows one to alter the specifics outlined in Scripture, there are some limits.  That is, one must establish what is absolutely essential to Christianity, principles that are so basic that any belief system without them could not be meaningfully described as Christian.  Having studied Christianity in many of its forms, it seems that these essential principles include the following: God—a Supreme Being that there is only one of—exists, God is all-powerful, God is all-good, sin exists, and that God came to earth in the human form of Jesus Christ to save mankind from sin.  These principles established, I will now attempt to demonstrate that they are true.

It has been mathematically proven that any system that is complex enough to contain arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete.  It would seem that this principle would apply to other complex systems that do not involve numbers, such as law, morality, and how the universe works.  If this is the case, then any explanation of how the universe works must be either inconsistent or incomplete.  It seems impossible that the universe would be inconsistent because if any aspect of it were simultaneously true and false then it becomes impossible to determine what one would see when encountering that aspect.  Therefore, any explanation of the universe must be incomplete.  Now, for systems such as mathematics, law, and morality, this does not pose any serious problem because these things are human constructs and do not need to be complete.  It would seem unreasonable to believe, however, that the universe is a human construct and for this reason it would seem impossible for the universe itself to be incomplete.  Therefore, it is only reasonable to assume that the universe is complete despite the fact that any system that could be used to explain it is incomplete.  Since it is useful to have names for things that one is discussing, let us call this thing that completes the universe but is beyond any rational explanation “divine.”

An explanation is a statement or set of statements that give reasons for some thing.  Regarding explanations, all phenomena can be included into three categories: that which has a cause, that which has a hidden cause, and that which has no cause.  Let us call the first of these “deterministic” explanations, the second “divine,” and the third “random.”  One can imagine a universe that operates entirely through deterministic means, but the universe in which we live does not seem to fit such a description.  For, if what I have heard from others is true, analysis of our universe at the quantum level shows us that the universe operates in a way that is not entirely deterministic—though the fact that it is at least partially deterministic in the fact that certain things are more likely than others, resulting in the appearance of total determinism on the macroscopic, visible level.  Therefore, an adequate description of the universe must include the divine, the random, or both of these in addition to the deterministic.  In other words, that which cannot be explained deterministically must either have a hidden cause or no cause at all.  Furthermore, insofar as something is deterministic it has a cause and insofar as something has a cause it can be traced back to something else.  Since everything in the universe is either deterministic, divine, or random, and everything that is not divine and/or random can be traced back to something else, then everything is ultimately based on the divine and/or random.

If something is simply random, then any value that one assigns to its outcomes are entirely arbitrary.  But persons—and it is essential to assume that persons exist, for if persons do not exist, then it would be impossible for you to experience anything at all— experience value.  Therefore, if persons exist, then value exists and this value must have come either from the divine, which can have value, or from the random, which cannot.  If there is no divine, and everything is ultimately based on the divine and/or the random, then everything is based on the random and therefore cannot have value.  Thus, if there is no divine, then value exists in the universe and it doesn’t, which is impossible.  Thus, since persons and therefore value exist, then it must have come from the divine.  And it is obvious that if value comes from the divine, then the divine must also exist.

For something to have power, it must have two things.  First, it must be self-reliant.  For insofar as something is reliant on something else its power is derived from something else and therefore does not rest in itself.  Second, it must have a sense of meaning.  For only insofar as something has meaning can it will to exert its power and something that does not will to exert its power is identical to something that does not have power at all.  That which is deterministic has no power because, although it might be said to have meaning, it is reliant on something else.  That which is random has no power—at least, not in any meaningful sense—because, although it is not reliant on anything else, it has no sense of meaning.  That which is divine can have power because it has both a sense of meaning and is not reliant on anything else.  Since everything is deterministic, random, or divine and the divine is the only one of these that has power, all power rests in the divine.  And so it follows that the divine is all-powerful.

Something is said to be evil in two ways: as an evil in itself and as the absence of a good (in the same manner as cold is the absence of heat).  Value concerns the goodness of things, but that which is not good is not valued and therefore all value must be good.  Therefore, evil cannot be something that exists, but only the name we give to something in which goodness is lacking.  Since all value comes from the divine and all value is good, the divine must therefore be the source of goodness.  It is obvious that something which is the source of all good must itself be good.

A good can be good specifically or absolutely.  A specific good fulfills a least one need of at least one being that has values, the result of which is incomplete happiness.  Because there are many things that beings can value as good, it happens that specific goods are often contrary to other specific goods.  An absolute good fulfills all needs of all beings, the result of which is complete happiness.  Since a thing cannot simultaneously be another thing mutually exclusive to itself, good cannot be mutually exclusive to good.  Therefore, specific goods are only opposed to each other in some cases because they are incomplete and thus absolute good must exist so that it is possible for them to be reconciled.  Because absolute good is complete, there can only be one absolute good, because if one thing includes everything then there is no room for anything else—specific goods are separate from the absolute good, but rather they share in the absolute good insofar as they are good themselves.  As has been demonstrated earlier, one of the essential characteristics of the divine is that it has meaning.  And since all value is good, all that has meaning must be specifically or absolutely good and therefore all that is divine must be good.  Furthermore, since the divine is the source of all value, it must be absolutely good.  Thus, the divine must be a singularity because it is absolutely good and there can only be one absolute good.

All things strive towards perceived goods insofar as they can strive towards anything.  Therefore, since the divine is the absolute good, it must also be the case that all things strive towards the divine, insofar as they are capable of striving towards it.  One can be prevented from striving for the good by external causes, such as a lack of capacity or coercion by an outside force, or by internal causes, such as willful ignorance or negligence.  A cause is external insofar as one does not have control over it and internal insofar as one has control over it.  In other words, one is incapable of overcoming external causes but capable of overcoming internal causes.  Goodness is, by definition, something that one benefits by having and therefore is desirable to any rational being.  Therefore, it is only reasonable to strive towards goodness whenever one is capable of doing so and resist all internal causes preventing oneself for striving towards the good.  Thus, since the divine is good, a rational being should strive towards the divine and not be led astray by internal causes such as ignorance or negligence.  Since it has been demonstrated earlier that the divine exists through rational means, for any rational being to not know that the divine exists is an act of ignorance or negligence and should be avoided.  Therefore, any rational being should know that the divine exists.

By now I have demonstrated not only that the divine must exist, but have also pointed out a few of its necessary attributes: that it completes the universe, is at least partially the basis of everything in the universe, is the basis of all value, is all-powerful, is good, exists as a singularity, and should be believed in.  This divinity shares all of the essential characteristics, and is therefore essentially the same as the Christian God.  So, all that is left for me to prove in order to complete the challenge and make myself $100 richer—a good that it would be irrational for me not to pursue insofar as I have the capacity to pursue it—is to demonstrate that God came to Earth in the human form of Jesus Christ to save mankind from sin.

Perfect happiness in this world is impossible.  This is because the only goods that are available to us are specific goods and so we only have the means to obtain partial happiness.  So if absolute good exists, but is not available to us in this life, it must exist in the realm of the divine.  The fact that we are in this world, where only specific goods are available, rather than the divine realm, where absolute good can be obtained, shows that we must be in a fallen state.  To escape such a state, it is necessary for us to be saved by the only being that is absolutely good and has the power to save others, which is God alone.

God is absolutely good, and one of the specific forms of absolute good is justice, which involves the punishment of sin.  Another form of absolute good, however, is forgiveness.  Therefore, a person turned away from God, one can be certain of at least two things, that God will punish that person and that God will leave open the possibility for forgiveness.  The Bible tells us exactly this, that mankind fell because of sin but was redeemed by Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully God.  Redeeming mankind in this manner would have been essential because only a the actions of a human could make mankind deserving of forgiveness and, given the fallen state of man and inherent tendency towards sin, only God would have had the capacity to be absolutely good and thus merit forgiveness.

All of what I have said above is necessarily true, regardless of what our imperfect intellects may believe, and the Bible is the only book that captures all of these truths and therefore one can conclude that it must have been inspired by God, the only entity in the universe who knows the Truth and therefore has the ability to convey it to the minds of humans.  And if the Bible is inspired by God, who is inerrant, irrefutable, and infallible, then the Bible must be all of these things as well.

Footnote:

* Contrary to the confidence that I (jokingly) conveyed in the first paragraph, I do not really believe that this argument is truly unassailable.  Indeed, I am almost certain that in next week’s update people will point out multiple errors in every paragraph.  But so long as it gets people thinking, I am satisfied…and if I end up getting some money out of this, so much the better.