Friday, January 20, 2006

Or do you take the Mystery Prize?

This phrase, “Christianity is logical” is fun, let’s explore it. If I was going to build the propositions to show Christianity is logical, I know exactly where to safely start:

P1: God is mysterious.
P2: We do not know everything about God, only what He has revealed to us.

Having started with those two propositions (which many Christians would concur) any other propositions, from P3 to P2003 will all “logically” fall in line with it. With that basis, it is impossible to create any set of premises that will not manage to conform, under this P1 & P2.

Watch how this works:

P3: God is solely good.
P4: Evil exists in the world.

(Commonly the Problem of evil, obviously.) We seem to have a contradiction. BUT, in order to allow for a possible resolution, one can state that this is one of those mysterious elements, which God has chosen to not show us. Voila —what a minute ago was a nasty discrepancy becomes logically possible under P1—God can do it and we don’t know how. Or another:

P5: Humans have free will
P6: God pre-determines all actions.

(The ol’ free will/predestination thing.) Again, a difference. But, bring out P1, state it is an unexplained paradox, and we have yet again, developed a logical, reasonable, all-inclusive belief that is internally non-contradictory in a logical sense.

By creating this HUGE escape clause at ground zero, the Christian is able to weasel out of any apparent logical problem by grasping onto this straw and claim “We don’t know HOW God does it, only that He does. And you can’t know either.”

The apparent age of the earth and fossil record in light of claim of creation? Can’t explain it, all we know is that “God did it.” Why God hated ham? Don’t know, in the mysterious box. Why is one death sufficient to save Billions? Don’t know, in the mysterious box. Why the genocide, the testing of Abraham and Job, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? All can be “logically” explained by the first premise that God is mysterious.

Oh, some may not like the word, “mysterious” as it appears too nebulous, and they can create a much fancier definition, like “a transcendent being, incalculable, inconceivable, and indescribable, which has, on occasion, communicated in an anthropomorphic manner to provide an allotment of knowledge, which even then the human is incapable of comprehending.” Bottom line? “God is mysterious.”

And so we are stymied. Christianity is a logical belief. Or is it?

Part of the predicament of creating this “God is mysterious” premise, is that the Christian must, likewise concede that they have no idea, either, as to the who, what, when, where or why of God’s doing. That, in fact, they are in no better position to make the determination than the non-believer.

The escape clause is so large; it destroys every premise, both positive and negative. Is God good? Who knows, since He is mysterious. As I pointed out before, if God can lie, we wouldn’t be able to verify it one way or the other. Therefore, anything he says about himself cannot be verified! Did God create this world, or did he find it? Who knows—God is mysterious, right? Is there more than one God? Can’t answer. Questions such as morality, Justice, Love, and truth are all swallowed whole in the great big “unknown.”

“Hoisted on one’s own petard” comes to mind. Often a theist will debate with me, and go on at great lengths about “God is this..” or “God did that…” or “God is….” but when I start to question the conclusions that these hypothesizes bring, they whip out the “God is mysterious box” and state, honestly, that they don’t know. Well, if they don’t like the conclusions, they likewise have problems with the underlying claims. “God is mysterious” becomes a convenient excuse, but in reflection, destroys the whole premise of the God itself.

I am not saying that we must know God 100% or not make any claims about Him. Nothing of the sort. I am saying that absent an ability to verify, using “God is mysterious” to get out of a logical conundrum does not present a stamp of approval on the process. I am saying that by claiming a being with whom we have no contact, other than at its initiation, is anything is dangerous work. To make grandiose, contradictory claims, and then resolve them by saying “we don’t know” is unhelpful.

It reduces the concept of “logical” to a laughingstock. If your husband beats you and yet says he loves you, that is logically consistent, because he is “mysterious.” The classic “If…then…” logical statement, in the hands of a theist becomes “If ….then….unless God wants it different.”

Remember, at its root, “logic” is just a way to communicate so that we can reasonable understand each other. So that we understand square circles, and married bachelors are logical impossibilities. So that when we say, “If A, then B” regardless of whether “A” is “2,” “you are good” or “four potatoes” we understand and communicate that “B” will happen. Every single time.

By creating this huge exception, we can never be certain that there aren’t square circles or married bachelors, because God-logic allows the contradictory to exist. The “If…then…unless God steps in and makes up mean down, and right mean left.” Good-by logic. Good-by ability to consistently communicate.

There is another issue for Christians. This claim, “God is mysterious” is directly contradictory to the Bible. In Job we have his friends discussing YHWH and His attributes. One, Zophar the Naamathite says, “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven-what can you do? Deeper than Sheol-what can you know? (Job 11:7-8)

I don’t know about you, but this sure sounds like the “God is mysterious” excuse rearing its head. Zophar tells Job that he is in no position to question God’s ways, since they are unknown.

But what does God say about Zophar’s statement? “…you have not spoken of Me what is right,…” (Job 42:7 & 8) This make no sense. None whatsoever. In fact, if you read the last three chapters of Job, God seems to be saying the same thing Zophar had said, at greater length.

How can we resolve this contradiction? Oh. Almost forgot. That’s right. God is mysterious.

No comments:

Post a Comment