The Early Days of a Better Nation

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Sunday Prayer

Please God, deliver us from biologists doing theology. Of course, it's always possible that biologists doing theology only appears to be a bad thing because of our limited knowledge.

In which case, carry on as You were.

Thank You.

That will be all.

Labels: ,


Theology is like organized sports: you can argue about the rules, but they only matter if you want to play the game. If you'd rather spend an afternoon at the museum or a day in a boat on the river, the rules of cricket are completely irrelevant.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. The sad thing is that I thought Gutting was starting to put together rather a powerful Humean argument against religion by the end of the column - it certainly deserved a better response than "yeah well what if there is no God? what about that? you didn't think of that, did you?"

Speaker - yes.

Phil - well yes, exactly. Gutting's argument is quite dizzying: even if God exists, you can never be sure that your religion isn't the result of a false revelation (whether of supernatural origin or not) or that your spiritual experience isn't mere delusion, all permitted by God for a greater good that we can't understand but God can. And after all, many believers do believe that about believers in other religions, and about believers in the wrong division of their own religion. So they are in the same boat.

On second thoughts, it's rather like Calvinism scaled up to the cosmic scale. Your hopes and fears, your struggle with right and wrong and the dictates of your conscience, might be all for nothing, because you might have been always already damned - and in that case that would have been part of the divine plan. God is Cthulhu, to you (or to all of us in Gutting's version).

There are only two counter-arguments to Gutting that I can see. One is C.S. Lewis's (in his sf phase): Earth is special, because it's the neighbourhood of Bethlehem; there was only one Incarnation and we got it. I don't think that's beyond undermining, although it would take some pretty heretical theology. The other, to which I'm temperamentally more inclined, is Sydney Carter's: there's only one revelation of the Divine, here or on any other planet, and it's what we know as God. Mind you, that's probably just as heretical if you follow it through - I think you'd end up with something rather Don Cupitt-ish idea of religion as just something that reflective species do.

Your comment form is now asking me to prove I'm not a robot. Would that I could!

Yes, it's very like Calvinism, with one more turn of the screw: if God is like that, actualising the best possible universe, this could include allowing you to believe a religion that won't save you, and that religion could as well be Christianity (or, within that, Calvinism) as any other.

But what really pisses me off about biologists doing theology (and, of course, I'm just a biologist doing theology myself, and a failed biologist to boot) is that, e.g., Coyne says that the fundamentalists are right to point out that there's a problem with Christians reading Genesis as myth, because Jesus and Paul read it as history. After all, if you believe Jesus is God, you must believe he knew everything, so why didn't he know ...?

I'm not at all sure that even the most orthodox Christians are committed to the belief that Jesus knew everything, particularly as Jesus is reported to have said quite clearly that there were some things he didn't know. Whatever about that, it just seems ridiculous for biologists to argue that a fundamentalist reading is the correct one.

I'm reminded of a local news story, from a few years ago, about a creationist group giving tours of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. One clip showed the college-age guide saying "When Jesus created the universe..." Well, that was news to me.

btw, I found "The Night Sessions" at a Barnes & Noble last Monday, a month early. And the "The Restoration Game" was excellent.

Post a Comment