Atheists hope [in what is seen]

the-mountainUnbelievers, those who choose the label “atheist,” often hope to be consistent with their view that this extraordinarily wondrous universe, and our miraculous existence and lives within it, are just a [hopeless] blip on the radar-screen of infinite time, and that we exit without any [hope of] anything after. And, in order to cope with the consequences of such a horribly empty [truly hopeless] perspective, they sometimes opt for the classification of “agnostic” in the hope that there might be some hope somewhere, after all. The atheist and agnostic must hope that they are correct in their assessment of these things, but we are confident that such hope will disappoint, and forever.

I did not use the word “meaningless” to describe this hopeless state of the atheist/agnostic, since they often claim to have meaning in their lives, though this meaning is typically rooted in finite things that cannot give true hope. We all know the litany of those things that people believe and hope will give them meaning or some satisfaction, and what they serve to that end, so there is no need to repeat that here. Yet, it is reasonable to say that those things actually can give no hope at all, and can even blind us to true hope and thus to true meaning and to real significance. In other words, in this case, it is impossible for finite things to give us an everlasting hope or an infinite reference point of meaning and significance for our eternal lives. These things are simply incapable of, as insufficient for, such a monumental spiritual, philosophical, emotional, and moral task.

For the truth, we are compelled to tell the unbelieving atheist and the unbelieving agnostic that there can be true hope, and lasting hope, a hope that “does not disappoint,” but it must be found at its source. But I must conclude with saying that this hope we have is not just hope to have hope, or hope in hope, it is the present and coming reality of what God has promised. This hope must relinquish the vain hope in the finite mirage of what is seen, and patiently wait for the fullness and reality of what we do not yet see fully.

Paul addresses this very beautifully in his letter to the Romans (8:18-23):
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

“. . . .may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, , so that you will abound in hope . . .” (Rom 15:13).

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9 comments

  1. I was about to object to your characterization of unbelievers as hopeless, but then I noticed that you introduced the concept of “true hope”, which not being hope, can mean whatever you wish it to. It is clear that you define true hope as logically incoherent as a deity is.

    I’m satisfied with my plain old hope, thank you.

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    1. It seems you still want to have true hope, but you also define hope as you see it: i.e., “plain old.”
      Actually, that everyone desires hope suggests that it is a logically coherent element of being human. But hope, to be true/real hope, by definition assumes it is “in something” (or someone). Hope, otherwise defined, is logically incoherent.

      “There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty. Ever renewing its memory, he repeatedly sheds fresh drops. Since, therefore, men one and all perceive that there is a God and that he is their Maker, they are condemned by their own testimony because they have failed to honor him and to consecrate their lives to his will. If ignorance of God is to be looked for anywhere, surely one is most likely to find an example of it among the more backward folk and those more remote from civilization. Yet there is, as the eminent pagan says, no nation so barbarous, no people so savage, that they have not a deep-seated conviction that there is a God. And they who in other aspects of life seem least to differ from brutes still continue to retain some seed of religion. So deeply does the common conception occupy the minds of all, so tenaciously does it inhere in the hearts of all! Therefore, since from the beginning of the world there has been no religion, no city, in short, no household, that could do without religion, there lies in this a tacit confession of a sense of deity inscribed in the hearts of all.” John Calvin, Institutes, vol 1, I.III.1, p. 43.

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      1. No, you’re the one who distinguished hope from true hope, where “true hope” means hope in the divine. Seeing as I hold hope in humanity and people, my hope fits your given definition for true hope as being in something or someone. But that’s not what you’re looking for, for you want true hope to mean hope in something infinitely significant, the most superlative of superlatives. Like some kind of knock off of the already pathetic ontological argument.

        With regard to your lengthy quote, please leave your presuppositionalism at the door. It will do you no good. You don’t get to tell me what I believe or how I feel.

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  2. Sorry, no offense was intended in sharing Calvin’s quote, in regards to trying to tell you what you believe or how you feel. Calvin’s comment actually does not address belief or feelings at all, but rather knowledge, as did Paul the author of the letter to the Romans

    1.18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
    19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
    20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
    21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
    New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ro 1:18–22). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

    This is hardly Presuppositionalism, but rather a theological claim and assertion based on evidence with warrants that he believes are sufficient for his premise.

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    1. Knowledge is simply a subset of beliefs – those with justification. As it can be justified, it can be shared, but there is no guarantee that those you share it with will find it justified.

      It is presuppositionalism, because presuppositionalism is based on the idea that the Bible is true. This is all the more apparent seeing as you’ve turned to the Bible to quote presupposition’s favorite passage when confronted with a nonbeliever. “No, you really do believe, you’re just suppressing it to live in iniquity.” There is no way you can know my beliefs better than I do, and the only way to justify this assumption is if you’re presupposing the Bible is inerrant, hence the passage courtesy of Romans.

      Does it really surprise you that your holy book tells you that those who disagree with your holy book are foolish? The Koran says much the same.

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      1. Dave, Are you saying that we do not need to justify our beliefs (which you seem to define as knowledge), to those we share with others? I think that knowledge may be more than just a “subset of beliefs”; it may(should) be true information about reality.

        I do not recall saying that you “really do believe” something, but rather as Paul stated in Romans that we all know something truly, regardless of what we claim to believe.

        I do not recall saying that I know your beliefs better than you do. In fact, I do not know more than what you have expressed in these replies about your beliefs. I did say, by way of quoting Romans 1, that I believe we all know something of God innately (as made in God’s image). This is a rational belief and assertion that can be argued logically with evidence to that effect, whether you believe it or not. Predisposition not to believe something, a proposition or belief-statement, simply because you believe it cannot be true is its own form of circular and arational presuppositionalism.

        Also, to deny someone’s statement is untrue because that someone also happens to believe something (like inerrancy) who states it, is a logical fallacy of slanting the argument against the person. It in no way disproves, nor even addresses, the statement itself. Nor does stating that because the Koran allegedly states something that one might not agree with, then the Bible is therefore wrong on something it allegedly states, as well. Also, I am not sure what exactly you refer to as to the statement about disagreeing with “your holy book.”? Perhaps you are referring to such expressions as a “a fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.'”(?) Such a statement is either true or not, but just dismissing it out-of-hand does not really address it as possibly true, and therefore even from an atheist’s perspective it could be said that such a person is foolish when they are so close-minded and bigoted as to never consider they may be wrong in their belief system because it may not be true. More positively, the same can be said when they refuse to consider that something else they do not believe or know might indeed be true, as well. In other words, unless you are somewhat willing to accept that what I believe I know may actually be true knowledge, and what you say you know that you believe may not be true (and vice versa), then the conversation about what is true is over.

        “Whatever its more detailed features, open-mindedness has something to do with how we respond to other’s beliefs, and typically at least, to beliefs or ideas that conflict with our own. An open-minded person does not cling blindly to her beliefs in the face of challenges or counter-evidence to them. She is not dismissive of beliefs or positions with which she disagrees. Nor does she shy away from rational dialogue or engagement with people who believe differently from her.” Baehr, “Open Mindedness,” in Being Good, p. 31

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  3. >Dave, Are you saying that we do not need to justify our beliefs (which you seem to define as knowledge), to those we share with others?

    Beliefs need not be justified to exist. Beliefs are what make us who we are, and are the innate, knee-jerk responses as well as the well-considered positions. For example, you have the false positive identification: the rustle in the grass mistaken for a predator. You are startled because you believe your life is in danger. Your mother may have raised you to avoid stepping on cracks, leading you to believe there is something dangerous or immoral about stepping on cracks. Whether or not that constitutes knowledge depends on your epistemology. For me, it would not, because I understand that my mother is not always right, and in this, I have no reason to think she is. If you were to have an unswerving trust in your mother, perhaps her simple word would be sufficient to justify the belief.

    >I think that knowledge may be more than just a “subset of beliefs”; it may(should) be true information about reality.

    Surely you can think of something you “know” which others disagree on, or things others “know” that you disagree with them on. Either knowledge is reserved for logical truths and everyone is using it loosely, or knowledge is a subjective thing.

    >I do not recall saying that you “really do believe” something, but rather as Paul stated in Romans that we all know something truly, regardless of what we claim to believe.

    I’m sorry, I should restate it. It’s not that you insist that I believe something, it’s you believe that Paul stated in Romans that I really believe something, regardless of what I claim to believe. So you insist that Paul insists that I believe something, and that I’m lying. Unless, of course, knowledge can be known without being aware of it, in which case you’re playing fast and loose with the basic concept of knowledge.

    >I do not recall saying that I know your beliefs better than you do. In fact, I do not know more than what you have expressed in these replies about your beliefs. I did say, by way of quoting Romans 1, that I believe we all know something of God innately (as made in God’s image). This is a rational belief and assertion that can be argued logically with evidence to that effect, whether you believe it or not. Predisposition not to believe something, a proposition or belief-statement, simply because you believe it cannot be true is its own form of circular and arational presuppositionalism.

    No, you said that you know that Paul knows that I know there is a god. If you can give evidence that I know there is a god, please do so, now. You’ll be excited to know that I was raised as a Christian, so you can take that predisposition to not believe and eat your words. I got to where I am because I tried so hard to believe, and found every avenue, every rationalization, to be lacking.

    >Also, to deny someone’s statement is untrue because that someone also happens to believe something (like inerrancy) who states it, is a logical fallacy of slanting the argument against the person.

    So you are now admitting that you did say that I know there is a god? Either you believe that I know there is a god because the Bible says so, and you believe the Bible is inerrant, and I follow up by saying I think the Bible is full of contradictions and errancies, and therefore your belief that I know there is a god is unsupported, or you don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, in which case why do you bother insisting that Paul says I know there is a god? There is no logical fallacy on my part in pointing out the flaw in presupposing that I know there is a god because the Bible is inerrant and it says so. Again, provide the evidence. Don’t give a quote that says deep down I really know God. What does a quote prove? That somebody once had a thought and it was written down.

    >Nor does stating that because the Koran allegedly states something that one might not agree with, then the Bible is therefore wrong on something it allegedly states, as well.

    I simply said that the Koran has the same claims. The question is why do you disagree with the Koran while subscribing to the Bible? This is not a conundrum for me, because I think they’re both mythologies. Some parts clear fiction, and others, thoroughly embellished history.

    This conversation is based upon the idea that you claim that I know there is a god, and I claim that you have no reason to believe that you could know that I know there is a god. You’ve given no evidence towards that, just scripture and quotes, seemingly under the impression that it is obvious. In absence of that evidence, I am left to conclude that you subscribe to the school of presuppositional thought, a label you visibly shrink from, and yet defend at the same time. I have no reason to be open to your word salad just for the sake of being considered open minded. To be that open, I would also need to be open to no end of quack medicine and woo woo science, the former of which at least has the benefit of a placebo effect. I don’t have time for that anymore. If you want me to subscribe to your thoughts, you need to come up with actual evidence.

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