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How do we know there's a God? What is he like?

Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby Could Love » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:26 pm

Spacelessness and Timelessness don’t make any sense at all as properties of something that is said to “exist”.

How is it even possible that a god could be said to exist spacelessly and timelessly? That seems to me to be saying that a god exists nowhere and never, which is to say that it doesn’t exist. Time and space are necessary to say something exists. I might just have a horrible imagination, but I can’t conceptualize what it would even mean to exist without space and time. What do theists of any sort that claim this sort of thing do with this and still remain justified in their belief in a deity?
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Re: Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:43 pm

My thoughts are going in so many directions I hardly know where to start.

There are different kinds of existence. Time exists, but it doesn't occupy any space. We are told that dark matter exists, and yet does it consume or occupy any space or have any relation to time? What about abstractions? We say things like "justice reigned in the court's ruling." Justice exists, but it's an abstraction with no particular relation to time and space. Language exists.

Einstein's theories indicate that time is not a constant and may even affect space. I'm not deeply versed in relativity, so someone else may be able to elaborate more, but I'm not certain that time and space are ultimately necessary for existence. They seem instead to be the parameters or dimensions in which we normally function, but maybe not necessarily so. But that's way too deep for me.

Quantum Mysticism, likewise, tells us about things like superposition (again, deeper than my brain goes) where subatomic particles are able to exist in two states at once, or even two places at once. If this is so, "space" seems to move into a closet where it doesn't speak so loudly to what existence is all about.

There are different perspectives on existence. In the ancient world, something was said to "exist" when it had a function and a purpose. The desert, therefore, "didn't exist." Unshaped clay didn't exist. When it was given a form and a purpose, it came into existence or was considered to be created. (Some interesting new ideas are coming out about Genesis 1 not being about material creation but about God giving creation order and functionality, and in that sense "creating" it [not that God didn't create it materially, but that's not what Gn. 1 is about].) In our world we say something exists when something has a positive relationship to space and time. And yet we still say that non-material non-temporal things "exist." Space and time is still our paradigm, though.

Dr. Evandro Agazzi, President of the International Academy of Philosophy and Science in Brussels, gave a lecture about our modern conception of existence. He said that in the realm of science we are prone to making flat statements that the world exists, yet the same person would say they believe God exists. "Why should we use different wording?" he muses. He says it goes back to a principle of authority. Our view of science as an authority causes us to talk about material things as existence, but non-material things as simply our opinions or beliefs. The moral law within us exists just as surely as the stars in the heavens (reflecting with Kant). Time also has places and in time we have distinct events that each has its own purpose. Special events have no homogeneity—each is unique as it exists in a moment in time. In space and time the distinctive places that exist are identified in relative terms. They all exist relative to the person. Heaven and earth are particular places in space that take on their significance in relation to us. In time, you cannot speak about the present unless there is a subject who says "now." So, in the same way, time is relative to us. Present, past and future do not exist in Physics, he says; they exist in our experience only in relation to us. Heaven, earth and time all have a religious sense and a personal sense—and that is why they really exist. Principles of Physics are delimited for the sake of objectivity. It cannot and does not cover the whole of reality. Metaphysics have always existed alongside of Physics and are needed to fill in the totality of reality. Never in history were these things seen as in opposition. Humans always seek to give sense and value to their life. Belief and knowledge together make up the totality of reality; science cannot have ultimate authority because it is only one slice of reality.
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Re: Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby Big Bum » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:29 pm

And they say Christians check their brains at the door... bravo brother!
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Re: Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby Public Peeper » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:41 pm

Yes there are different types of existence--but if you notice, for each of your examples we can still say "X exists when X instantiates in its type of existence, and if X does not instantiate in its type of existence, then X does not exist." So I can think about having wings sprouting out of my back--that doesn't mean my wings exist as anything more than a fantasy or a thought. I have hands that type this; so regardless of whether I think about my hands, they almost certainly continue to exist. That doesn't mean there's a property of "pure existence" that is shared between my fantasy and my hands, that would "be" in the absence of any fantasy, or any object, or anything else.

As you said: "In space and time the distinctive places that exist are identified in relative terms. They all exist relative to the person. Heaven and earth are particular places in space that take on their significance in relation to us. In time, you cannot speak about the present unless there is a subject who says "now." So, in the same way, time is relative to us."

In your own examples, "objective space" doesn't make sense--it's relative, a relation among objects; no objects, no space. How is existence different?

Would you agree that "objective space" is nonsensical--space in the absence of anything occupying space? or "objective time" is nonsensical--time in the absence of any change in events?

What is it about existence that allows for 'pure existence,' which seems to be relative--when something "is," existence is; if nothing else were, why would "existence" remain?
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Re: Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:51 pm

> for each of your examples we can still say "X exists when X instantiates in its type of existence, and if X does not instantiate in its type of existence, then X does not exist."

It's impossible to have any kind of an ontological understanding without a reference point, that referent being the thing that exists. If you want to separate X from an instantiation of X, we have descended into the absurd where I have to justify something existence without any reference to its existence.

> So I can think about having wings sprouting out of my back--that doesn't mean my wings exist as anything more than a fantasy or a thought.

Of course this is true. Existence must correspond to some kind of reality. Fantasy qualifies as a thought and concept that exists, but for a concept to step into reality takes some kind of correspondence to reality and a corresponding ontological mechanism.

> I have hands that type this; so regardless of whether I think about my hands, they almost certainly continue to exist.

Certainly and indubitable.

> That doesn't mean there's a property of "pure existence" that is shared between my fantasy and my hands, that would "be" in the absence of any fantasy, or any object, or anything else.

Of course not. There was nothing in anything I wrote or claim that portrayed thoughts of fantasy as existing in any other sense than in my imagination. Only in that sense do they have any qualified ontology as an immaterial concept in my consciousness.

> In your own examples, "objective space" doesn't make sense--it's relative, a relation among objects; no objects, no space. How is existence different?

I was using "objective space" in the sense of that which corresponds to matter, which would include in my context even dark matter. I believe actual reality exists objectively outside of my consciousness (objective space, objective matter, objective energy), but my perception of it, by necessity, is relative to myself, as are all realities I perceive. Therefore in space and time the distinctive places that exist are *identified* in relative terms, and in that sense they "exist" relative to the person, but I believe that have an objective reality outside of my person.
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Re: Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby Public Peeper » Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:26 pm

Thanks for the reply!

> It's impossible to have any kind of an ontological understanding without a reference point, that referent being the thing that exists.

It's not impossible at all though, when the referent is something else's similar existence. We can have an ontological understanding of how the figurine on my desk exists by referencing other physical objects that exist. And that's what OP and I are getting confused by: whenever we reference existence, we're referencing something in space and time--and when we say "X doesn't exist," we mean "X isn't found in space and time." So saying something has all the properties of non-existence while retaining existence confuses the heck out of me and OP.

> If you want to separate X from an instantiation of X, we have descended into the absurd where I have to justify something existence without any reference to its existence.

Yes—and this is what is required when claims are made like "god is existence, god doesn't instantiate in anything else, all things are possible because of god." I agree with you, we've descended into the absurd. God doesn't instantiate in space-time...so in what does god instantiate?
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Re: Spacelessness and timelessness

Postby jimwalton » Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:34 am

> It's not impossible at all though, when the referent is something else's similar existence.

When it comes right down to it, in a Cartesian (etc.) understanding, we can only ever be certain of our own existence, if even that. Epistemology gets shaky when we talk about ontology.

> We can have an ontological understanding of how the figurine on my desk exists by referencing other physical objects that exist.

This is true. We make assumptions based on associations.

> whenever we reference existence, we're referencing something in space and time--and when we say "X doesn't exist," we mean "X isn't found in space and time."

This is not necessarily true, because we believe many things exist that don't exist in space and time, as in my first post.

> Yes--and this is what is required when claims are made like "god is existence, god doesn't instantiate in anything else, all things are possible because of god." I agree with you, we've descended into the absurd. God doesn't instantiate in space-time...so in what does god instantiate?

We presume to have evidence for all that we believe as rational or reasonable. But this raises many questions:

* What is evidence?
* What is existence?
* What is the relationship between my self (consciousness) and the alleged evidence for what I presume exists?
* What properties must a belief I hold have for me to be justified incepting it without space/time evidence?
* Am I only justified in believing in the existence of something exclusively on the basis of empirical evidence?

Shaken down, we all believe that we are not alone in the universe—there are other beings who think, feel, perceive, and believe. But it's also true that not one of us can perceive another being's mental states. Thoughts and passions don't occupy time and space, they are non-material and intangible. While a person's thoughts and feelings instantiate for them (presumably), that's not the case for someone else outside of them. How can I ever know, for instance, that someone else is in pain or not? What is justifiable evidence? Sometimes I can see someone else is in pain, which means I interpret his body language and verbiage to that end, though I can never really know.

I can determine with sight that Bill's face has red spots and his skin is flushed; I cannot determine by normal observation if his blood contains measles. I can determine by reading a newspaper that an event happened; I cannot know if by observation. I can only determine if someone else is in pain if they let me see it. I can only determine a news article is true by some sense of association with other propositions or assumptions. By the same principles, I can determine that God created the world by some sense of association with other propositions or assumptions (such as orderliness, purpose, or beauty—all of which exist but none of which occupy space or time). The question always comes down to: How can I know anything?

It is only by presuppositions, interactions, associations and assumptions that I presume any ontology, as I presume my own. And yet, I can speak with confidence in the real world about the existence of the sun, a hot summer day, the table on which my computer sits, and the food in my stomach. I can construct sound inductive arguments for each of these conclusions.

Though scientific and empirical evidences ultimately fail, I can reasonably conclude that someone else is in pain and that the external world truly exists in space and time. The way we live life is that for any person there are direct and convincing arguments for the proposition in question, and given that there is no comparable evidence against those propositions, they must be more probably true than not. This is the case in almost all of my commonsense beliefs about the mental states of others: they are more probable than not on my total evidence. Weighing the evidence for the existence of God (even outside of space and time) against the evidence against theism, belief in the existence of God (though it may not convince you) is by no means irrational. Given that there are no completely provable positions, I can conclude that I can rationally hold a contingent, corrigible belief even if there is no deductive and conclusive answer to the relevant epistemological question (How do I know, and how can I be sure?).

You claim that God doesn't instantiate in space-time, and yet the Bible (as opposed to Islam and Hinduism) claims differently. In the Bible God acted in space-time history with evidential manifestations, and then in the person of Jesus entered the space-time continuum for a period of observable time and empirical evidence (1 Jn. 1.1). Here, 2000 yrs later, it's more like investigating a cold case than setting up a scientific experiment. We are left with evaluating the documents of his instantiation along with assessing the course of history following his alleged incarnation to determine whether or not God truly exists and instantiated Himself in space-time. I have weighed the evidences and come to a confident conclusion that God exists and that He visited the Earth in the person of Jesus. The evidence and logic are there for each person to weigh and come to conclusion on one side of the fence or the other.


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