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Christian Tractatus

(Text as at 18/12/2010 19:58:05)

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This document constitutes my philosophical thoughts on the validity of Christianity. Its name and format are modelled on a well-known (and, of course, infinitely superior) work by Ludwig Wittgenstein. So as not to deceive the unwary, this evaluation is reluctantly negative. I am not a scoffer, so the evaluation is a serious one. However, I cannot see how Christianity or any other religious system can be made to work without either intellectual compromise or denuding the religious system of content.

The text of this document has not had a major overhaul in almost the last ten years, so my ideas have probably moved on somewhat in the interim. Readers may find the style rather inclined towards ex cathedra statements. This is because the document was written as an attempt to structure my views on these subjects rather than to seek to justify them in exhaustive detail. The web-based format does allow expatiation ad infinitem, and I will seek to progress in that direction in due course.

The document revolves around 20 basic assumptions into which my argument is broken down. I'm not yet happy that these are the best 20 and that there are no redundancies. However, given the whole document is geared around these fundamental tenets, I feel reluctant to change them until I have a clearer idea of how the structural change would affect the entire argument. So, we're stuck with them until inspiration strikes.

These 20 primary points of the argument, together with 4 appendices, are as below.

  1. The world is open1 to investigation.
  2. Knowledge of the world is acquired from experience2 under the interpretation of reason.
  3. No knowledge is certain3.
  4. The world obeys a number of fairly simple physical laws4, which form the modern scientific worldview, which is fundamentally correct.
  5. Truth5 is related to simplicity.
  6. It is important for our beliefs6 to be true, especially if we intend to pass them on to others.
  7. Christianity is a public7 statement about the world, not merely a private religion.
  8. The claims of Christianity are based on historical8 experience.
  9. The Bible9 is the most reliable record of the historical events on which Christianity is founded.
  10. Christianity requires a reliable, but not necessarily inerrant10, Bible to validate it.
  11. Biblical claims are to be validated11 in the same way as any other claims related to matters of fact.
  12. From the viewpoint of internal consistency & style, the Bible gives the impression of being a generally reliable12, but not inerrant, document.
  13. There are problems13 with the Biblical model of the world & its history.
  14. Christianity does not conform to the requirement of presuppositional simplicity14.
  15. There is no worthwhile subset of Christianity as traditionally understood that conforms to the modern worldview15.
  16. A worthwhile reconstruction16 of Christianity, in conformity with the modern worldview, has not been demonstrated to be possible.
  17. Christianity cannot & should not be defended solely on the basis of faith17.
  18. It is not self-evident that the world, or the individuals in it, have a purpose18.
  19. Pascal's wager19 is not to be accepted.
  20. It is better to remain silent20 than to make a pretence at knowledge.

  1. Acts 28 Dispensationalism21.
  2. Biblical Numerics & Chiasmus22.
  3. Spiritual23 Beings in the Judeo-Christian Tradition.
  4. Non-theistic Ethics24.

To find out more about each statement, click on the hyperlink to the underlying document, where the statement is broken down into more detail and, where possible, justified.

For a concatenation of the whole document in topic-title sequence, follow this link.

Please address any criticism of or suggested improvements to this paper to

Table of the Previous 4 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
26/09/2007 20:41:17 4199 CT Introduction
15/08/2007 08:32:38 4201 Christian Tractatus
13/08/2007 12:01:26 2118 Christian Tractatus
12/08/2007 10:17:46 2331 Christian Tractatus

Note last updated Reference for this Topic Parent Topic
18/12/2010 19:58:05 170 (CT Introduction) None

Summary of Notes Referenced by This Note

Acts 28 Dispensationalism Belief Bible Biblical Numerics & Chiasmus Certainty
Empirical Knowledge Faith Historical Experience Inerrancy Modern Worldview
Non-theistic Ethics Open Pascal's Wager Problems Public Statement
Purpose Reconstruction Reliability Scientific Law Silence
Simplicity of Christianity Spiritual Beings Truth Validation  

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.

Summary of Notes Citing This Note

Heythrop - Personal Statement Problems with the Christian Worldview Status: Philosophy of Religion (Summary of Progress to Date) Theo Todman's Christian Page Theo Todman's Old Papers - List
Tractatus Reprise Website - Outstanding Developments (2023 - September), 2      

To access information, click on one of the links in the table above.

Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Polkinghorne (John) N/A Author    
Todman (Theo) Tractatus Christianus Book Low Quality Abstract   Yes
Ungar-Sargon (Batya) Undercover atheists Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2023

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