UNKNOWN probabilities - well, that's pure speculation. And as we are speaking of the non-physical becoming physical, that lies in the realm of metaphysics.
Philip wrote: And everything we KNOW of (post the universe's beginning) came from something else, derived from some prior process. And we don't have SUPPORT for ANYTHING else. Oh, there are THEORIES - but that's not support, is it?
Hugh: Our knowledge of the universe breaks down at the Big Bang, so the idea that because everything we know of was caused by the Big Bang does not support the argument that the Big Bang must have been caused by something else.
Of course it doesn't. But the probabilities remain, that SOMETHING is the origin and cause of the universe, whether at the Big Bang or before it - that TIMING is irrelevant to the issue, and that something was eternal, intelligent, and unbelievably powerful, and it had the ability to make the non-physical become physical, and to create astounding designs and functions. So, whatever potential there is/was, it was inherent in that first Source. And it matters not if that is post or pre-Big Bang.
Philip wrote: But God DOES find fault - at least in Scripture, does he not? He has, in Scripture, repeatedly warned that other beliefs, if they remain unchanged, that dismiss belief in God/Christ, will end in terrible, eternal punishment. So, God obviously DOES think we have enough information to believe, that if we use the brains He gave us, we can see the truth - IF we want to see these things, He'll make them clear/obvious ENOUGH. And so GOD clearly does find fault. Do you believe that, Hugh? Is God fair, or does He punish people for what they cannot understand or know ENOUGH of to have faith? Wouldn't this suggest to you, Hugh, that one's logic, ALONE, is inadequate to the task of determining things of faith. They can certainly point to it, but it can never get one all the way there. That takes an openness and desire to experience God, as He shows one. But one can repel all of God's evidences and prompting, can He not?
Hugh: This is circular reasoning with a vengeance. One cannot derive the truth of the Bible simply from the Bible.
I agree, that it is ultimately reasoning ONLY based upon what the Bible says. And so you either believe what Scripture says about that, or you do not. Hugh, you say you identify as Catholic. Nothing I am speaking of is any different than what the Catholic Church says in relation to our origins. And you either believe the Bible, that God finds fault, guilt, enacts punishment, or you do not. No, logic cannot prove that. That is a matter of faith - which you either have or you do not. The question for you, asserting to be a Christian, is do you believe what the Bible teaches about these things or not? And IF not, why consider yourself a Christian - if you don't believe these things that God says about Him being the Source of ALL things, and that He punishes those who reject Christ, don't believe He was/is God?
Hugh: But you are correct that "one's logic, ALONE, is inadequate to the task of determining things of faith"; that's what I've been saying all along. However a desire to experience God can only be felt if one has faith in God in the first place, so it's unfair to blame people who don't believe in God for not exploring Him
What you assert shows me you do not believe what the Bible teaches about this issue. God says people CAN believe, that they will be provided enough evidence (whatever that is for a particular individual), but that people can choose to not WANT to believe or even to acknowledge His existence. And the Bible says, for such people, if they never change their hearts and minds, A) they will NEVER be able to have faith and B) that they will be eternally punished.
Hugh: You may feel that God's word is obvious and irresistible, but there are clearly many who don't. So, yes, God is fair, and he doesn't punish people for what they cannot understand or know ENOUGH of.
First place, your term, "irresistible" - if you are referring to some Calvinistic understanding of that word, I do not hold to it. We CAN resist God. All persons can!
God says, at some point, all will have all they need to be able to have faith. There is a point in which further knowledge is pointless for such people. What is that point? A) God knows what it is, and B) that will be different for different people. Everyone doesn't have the same issues. Yes, there ARE people who sincerely want to know the truth about God, who truly are seeking. Such people, God will honor with the ability and resources to have faith - whatever that might be. But there are also people who only want knowledge of God as they are willing to accept it - not as He IS, but as they prefer Him to be, how they prefer he accommodates THEIR sensibilities. One must seek God AS HE IS - on HIS terms. That is what Scripture teaches - you either believe it or you don't. And THAT isn't a matter of pure logic.
If God forever withheld knowledge or ability necessary to faith, then one could assert God has left people NO path to salvation. Clearly, that isn't the case, as God says people DO have enough to know. Read through Romans. You can either accept that or you can reject it. But it also means you are rejecting the ONLY collective source that anyone has to believe in Christ - the New Testament.
Hugh: Only if we believe Scripture to be true. Or if we believe our interpretation of Scripture to be correct. And where St Thomas went wrong (followed too closely by Philip, I fear) is in his overconfidence in the basic assumption that everything has a cause. It seemed to him obvious and axiomatic, but it isn't.