• AJ

    I agree with the second sentence. But is a “theological claim” the same thing as a “belief”? To me, “God exists” is a very different statement than “I believe that God exists.” The latter is like love. It’s a feeling, or possibly an opinion – something a person has even without all the facts, or when the facts can be interpreted in different ways. It’s a subjective statement, self-referential. “God exists” however is a claim about the nature of reality. We may never be able to test it, but any claim “in theory” is subject to provability/falsifiability, no?

  • lbehrendt

    mmmm. A theological claim can be a “belief”, if it is “believed”. Does that sound right to you? I might posit that a million angels can dance on the head of a pin, but I don’t know that I’d “believe” this even if I thought it were true. But I don’t think that the statement “God exists” is any different than the statement “I believe that God exists”. If “God exists” is a statement about the nature of reality, the reality is beyond our capacity to prove or falsify.

    But I’m no theologian. I read Dr. Levine’s quote, said “ooooh”, and posted it.

    • AJ

      A theological claim can be a “belief”, if it is “believed”.

      Yes, that’s true. In fact most every claim also has a belief component. If I claim that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and someone asked me whether I really “believe” that, I’d say “Yes I do!”. But the opposite isn’t necessarily implied. If I tell you that I believe in the afterlife, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’d “claim” there’s an afterlife. If I’m honest, I’d just say, “I don’t know.” I’d decline to make a claim.

      Though now that I think about it… I suppose “God exists” really isn’t so different than “I believe God exists”. First off, when people say “God exists”, most likely they’re just couching their belief in assertion language as a show of dedication/enthusiasm. But second, even though it has the “syntax” of a claim, it’s really a “pseudo-claim” as long as there’s no way to prove it or falsify it. It’s like if I said: “There’s an invisible, undetectable gremlin perched above every laundry machine that hides single socks.” In other words, I can claim anything I like, but the orifice where that claim is coming from is not necessarily the mouth!

      I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I have a very strong bias toward “belief” language (and away from assertion/claim language) when it comes to theological territory.

      • lbehrendt

        I feel a bit like I’m exploring quicksand here. I’m not a philosopher by training, but I tried once to read up on belief, and I think the idea is that knowledge is a kind of belief. It is belief plus. Then you get into the difficult question of what is knowledge. If you consult the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, they say that the standard definition is justified true belief. In other words, in order to “know” something, you have to believe it, you have to have a basis for your belief that will stand up to scrutiny, and what you believe has to be true.

        I want to get out of the quicksand while I still can. But what this seems to come down to is this: we can’t “know” that we know anything. We can only believe that we know something.

        I think we may be pushing Dr. Levine’s statement beyond what she meant to say. But we might say that in the first sentence of this quote, Dr. Levine is merely saying that there is no way to empirically justify a theological belief in something in the sense that would be required to say that one has “knowledge” of the something. The justification required to categorize a particular belief as “knowledge” would have to come from elsewhere.

        Much of what you say seems to boil down to the idea that the only way to justify a belief (in the sense of what would be required to say that one “knows” something) is by a recognized empirical methodology. While that may be a common view, it is by no means mandated by the understanding of “knowledge” I’ve put forth here. Moreover, there’s no bright line distinction between the belief that “God exists” and the belief that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, if for no other reason that neither belief can be “knowledge” unless the belief turns out to be true, a matter that is closely related to the acceptable methods of “justification” in place at a given time and location.

        • AJ

          I think you’re right that Dr. Levine meant something simpler than all this. Just that as a “quote to live by” I’d prefer if it were more precise.

          As far as belief in God vs. belief in H20, I hear what you’re saying but feel we also need to make certain practical distinctions regarding what we consider to be knowledge (or at the very least the type of knowledge it is), or else we simply flatten out the universe, and – to use my earlier metaphor – neither orifice is any better than the other!

          • lbehrendt

            I didn’t say it was a quote to live by! Just that I wish I’d said it.

            I don’t mean to completely “flatten out the universe”. I DO mean to flatten it out a little.

            • AJ

              Fair enough!