BELIEVING IN GOD, PJ McGrath, Millington Books in Association with Wolfhound, Dublin, 1995

PJ McGrath said that science is based on circular reasoning and this is rational though he believes that circular reasoning is sometimes irrational and a mistake (Believing in God, page 29)

McGrath originally believed that religious belief might be reasonable if it was circular for if you prove something with X then you have to prove that X is proven by Y and that Y is proven by Z and so on ad infinitum. This can’t be done so you need the circle. He believed that the foundations of knowledge depended on circles which verified this. But he said that his reader must decide if it is reasonable in the sense that it has evidence. Beliefs that are assumptions so that we can have knowledge, for example, if we didn't assume our eyes could see they would be no good to us and we wouldn't absorb or know the fact that we are about to step over the cliff are called basic beliefs. A basic belief is a belief we need so that we can based knowledge and other beliefs on it.
Later he repudiated the idea that religious circles might be reasonable. He rejected it for only circles that had to do with knowledge could be accepted and religious belief has nothing to do with becoming a basis for knowledge. Some religionists would say that belief in God is a basic belief for if we believe in God we can trust in what the senses and our thinking tell us for he made them. But it is only necessary to believe that the senses and reason are right. It is easier to believe that they are just right than it is to believe that they are right because of a God. It is also more dignified and more self-confident.
McGrath decided that if faith in religion was circular in its foundation then one can only appreciate the evidence for a religion if one already believes. For example, if your basic belief is in the Bible and you believe in the Bible because of a circle you can see the evidence but not believe in the Bible because of the evidence for you are not treating the evidence as evidence though you perceive the evidence. The circle interprets the evidence for you and the evidence is not allowed to stand on its own two feet and tell you what is what. This is putting the conclusion before the premises, the belief before the evidence and then looking only at what evidence you want to see and looking at it the way you are biased to see it. You pay lip service to the evidence, pretend you believe because of it when you don't and would "believe" without it. This is what those who tell you to become a Christian without evidence and you will see the evidence are telling you to do. It is an extremely dishonest approach. Any religion could say that you have to join it and you will appreciate the evidence then. There would be no way of telling true from false with that logic. The believer and the unbeliever should be able to equally understand the evidence and see what it says and absorb it.
McGrath believed that when God speaks and one says that one will not believe until God is proved and it is proved that God should be believed then this is not faith or trust but mistrust. He thought that a husband saying that he would only believe in his wife if she proved she was faithful showed that this was not trust in any form. Because of this he argued that proofs for God would not be needed and indeed would be undesirable (page 22). The truth is that you have to prove your wife exists as well as you can before you can love her and then you trust her without looking for proof all the time. The husband always has some proof that he should trust his wife for there can be no trust without evidence – he just does not make her prove everything for he has enough evidence. Also, a man can trust his wife for he knows her as a human being. But God is invisible and out of reach so we can’t say the same of him. We don’t know his nature to trust him. We don’t know if his revelation of himself is himself as he really is. Unlike the husband we have no evidence. God speaking is not enough for many have sworn that God has spoken when he hasn’t. The Christian faith has always insisted that faith is a gift from God and is supernatural (Ephesians 2) which means that God causes you to believe by presenting evidence and influence how you see it which he would not be doing if you could do it yourself meaning that the Christian has to believe in God and the religion before they get the evidence! Biblical faith is about being biased and narrow-minded. And God never gives much evidence to the average believer which proves this. The less evidence the more biased and bigoted and arrogant the believer is.
A husband can trust his wife and check up on her not because he thinks she is doing something wrong but because trust is not complete certainty anyway and she should be flattered that he wants to reduce the uncertainty for it will make her look better in his sight. She knows that if she behaves herself that she has nothing to fear. God gives us such poor evidence for his existence and he gives us even worse evidence for what he is like and stands for. The lack of decent evidence indicates that there is no God.
McGrath, like Vatican II, saw faith as God revealing himself to a person now instead of a person learning doctrine and ideas that are supposed to be about showing what God is like or what God is. The doctrines and ideas tell you about God but God works through your thoughts and feelings and perceptions of them to see that what they say about God is true. It is like God revealing the truth in a book or whatever and then working within you to reveal to you that the book is true. He uses the book not to reveal himself but as a tool in which he can be perceived and sensed. Faith is God revealing himself to you. That is faith because to believe in a book that God wrote to reveal himself is not as good as God personally, person to person, revealing himself and perhaps using the book as a tool. It is God indirectly revealing to you and direct is more personal, friendly and intimate. And you are not as sure that it is really God’s work unless God is in communion with you. The chief reason for faith having to be a direct revelation to the individual is that this makes faith about a relationship with God instead of just learning about God. But many people have claimed to have had supernatural faith in revelations from God and then discovered that faith was wrong.
McGrath stated that the Catholic tendency to use philosophical proofs for God in preference to proving that God has spoken and shown us thereby that he exists is not a reverent approach. The revelation would come first. And philosophy could lead to atheism.
Anybody who says that to believe in God because of reason is not to believe in God because of God’s authority is wrong for we cannot stop thinking or reasoning anyway. We can’t trust God at all without thinking and if thinking before trusting him is a bad thing then it is better than the alternative.
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