An Eastern Orthodox priest says I know nothing of God

I’m never sure what the “Fr.” in front of a religionist’s name means, but I guess it means “Father,” denoting a priest. (I used to think it mean “Friar,” denoting a monk.) At any rate, one Fr. Aidan (Alvin) Kimel, an Eastern Orthodox Priest who no longer practices, has a website called Eclectic Orthodoxy, and has decided that my recent post on anthropomorphic gods needs to be refuted.  Recall that the point of my post was that most ordinary believers seem to have an anthropomorpic notion of God: a God that has humanlike emotions, feelings and motivations.

But, says Fr. Kimel, that’s not all that the average believer thinks, and so he’s taken me to task in a post called “Jerry Coyne and his anthropomorphic God.”

His post is short, and I haven’t a lot to say about it, but I do want to emit a few words. First, let it be known that Kimel admits unashamedly that his God, and most people’s God, is indeed humanlike:

“But my point,” Coyne explains, “is that this is, in fact, how many Christians (and add to that Jews and Muslims) think of their god: as a person without a body. And that person has humanlike thoughts, feelings, and emotions.”

And of course he is absolutely right. This is how ordinary Christians think about the God whom they worship and serve. Our God is indeed personal, which is why we dare to pray to him, petition him, intercede with him, and seek to obey his commandments. Though this may leave us open to the ridicule of atheists like Mencken and Coyne, we sure aren’t going to apologize for our conviction nor are we going to philosophically qualify the divine personhood out of existence. We do not believe, will never believe, in an impersonal Deity.

But. . . . (of course there’s a “but”), there’s more! Kimel believes in a Ginsu God, one that’s humanlike but comes with a lot more!

But … and there is a crucial but here … we are also very much aware that God infinitely transcends all of our notions of personality and consciousness. God is God. If and when we do express ourselves incautiously about the divine nature and find ourselves speaking of God in purely anthropomorphic terms, the theologians of our respective traditions step in to correct us, typically through the catechetical teaching of our pastors.

Well, of course. Even the average Joe believes that God, while like a human, is also omnipotent, omniscient, and is perfectly good. Beyond that, I suspect, the average believer doesn’t think much. But Kimel argues that the concept of a humanlike God is purely a modern one:

There is a problem here, though. Sometimes pastors are not well-trained in the theology and are thus not well acquainted with the theological and spiritual tradition they are ordained to represent and teach. And to make matters worse, many only possess a modern understanding of God, popularly identified as theistic personalism. Theistic personalists often seem to relish in anthropomorphism.

I doubt this. After all, the God in the Bible is clearly anthropomorphic, and and I don’t know of any famous theologians, beginning with Augustine up to the 19th century, who thought that God was only a Ground of Being, lacking any aspects of a human being. After all, the Bible tells us that we’re made in the image of God. Does that only mean that we’re little Grounds of Being, too? I don’t think so. Now I may have missed some 15th-century apophatic theologians, but I’m pretty sure that a humanlike God is not a creature of modernity.

To correct the notion of an anthorpomorphic God, Kimel offers a quote from a single theologian, St. Anthony the Great:

The problem of the anthropomorphic rendering in Deity in the Scriptures has long been recognized in the theological tradition. How do we interpret the stories in which God gets angry or changes his mind and so on? The first thing we do, of course, is interpret them. Thus St Anthony the Great (fourth century), as quoted in the Philokalia:

“God is good, and passionless and immutable. If a man accepts it as right and true that God does not change, yet is puzzled how (being such) He rejoices at the good, turns away from the wicked, is angered with sinners and shows them mercy when they repent, the answer to this is that God does not rejoice and is not angered, for joy and anger are passions. It is absurd to think that the Deity could be helped or harmed by human deeds. God is good and does only good; He harms no one and remains always the same. As to ourselves, when we are good we enter into communion with God through our likeness to Him, and when we become evil, we cut ourselves off from God, through our unlikeness to Him. When we live virtuously we are God’s own, and when we become wicked, we fall away from Him. This does not mean that He is angry with us, but that our sins do not let God shine in us, and that they link us with the tormentors-the demons. If later, through prayers and good deeds, we obtain absolution of our sins, it does not mean that we have propitiated God and changed Him, but that through such actions and our turning to God we have cured the evil in ourselves and have again become able to partake of God’s goodness. Thus, to say that God turns away from the wicked is the same as to say that the sun hides itself from those who lose their sight”. (Texts on Saintly Life 150)

To Kimel, this quote has pwned me, or so he claims:

There’s nothing odd or unusual about Anthony’s correction of biblical anthropomorphism. One will find such corrections throughout the theological, homiletical, and ascetical tradition. This doesn’t mean that Christians do not believe in a personal Creator; but it certainly does mean that we understand the difference between God and a god—and we apparently understand this difference a lot better than does Dr Jerry Coyne.

In other words, God completely lacks emotion, nor is He altered by the world.

Well, Fr. Kimel, that’s a new one to me.  You’ve managed to find one theologian who says that. How about others, starting with the Bible itself, which characterizes God as jealous, pleased, or angry? Is that a metaphor? What about the 18th-century pastor Jonathan Edwards, whose famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry god” , delivered in 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut, terrified his parishoners, and continued to terrify many long after he was dead? Here’s a bit of that sermon; I’ve put in bold all the humanlike emotions—real, strong emotions—that, said Edwards, God experiences:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

What do you think of that, Fr. Kimel? Was Edwards wrong and St. Anthony right? How do you know? After all, the Old Testament is fully on Edwards’s side, isn’t it? In those books God gets jealous and angry all the time. 

And as for God “remaining always the same,” I presume that Fr. Kimel has heard of process theology, no? That’s a form of theology, promoted by the mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, in which God is affected by his creatures and does change. Process theology has in fact experienced a kind of resurgence lately. Is that wrong, too, Fr. Kimel?

That’s all I have to say, for all these assertions about God aren’t based on anything other than wish-thinking and mental masturbation. If you want to go by scripture, then I win, for there God is a very emotional (as well as a brutal and narcissistic) character. If you want to go by what theologians say, all bets are off, for different theologians say different things about God. David Bentley Hart, for instance, would call Kimel’s notion of God completely naive.

I’ll say one more thing. If I can indulge in some Yiddish argot, I’ll add that I don’t know from God, Kimel doesn’t know from God, and nobody knows from God.

 

 

123 Comments

  1. Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    You win this one, Jerry.

    Theists from Abraham to Martin Luther King Jr.(who held to theistic personalism which he adopted in graduate school) have devoutly believed that their God can be influenced and personally relates to humans.

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Not to mention: what else is a prayer but an attempt to personally relate to and influence the divine?

      How many Christians describe the entirety of their Christianity as a personal relationship with Jesus?

      And what’s the point of any human action from the perspective of a Christian if those actions won’t at the least influence Jesus’s after-death judgment?

      There’s somebody here who’s completely and utterly clueless about gods, and it ain’t Jerry….

      b&

      • John K.
        Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        In my very lukewarm and happy feeling Methodist upbringing, my pastor urged that intercessory prayer was “doing it rong”. Prayer was only supposed to be a mental exercise for appreciating all the good things in your life. Kind of like self affirmations I suppose, but more like a list of thank you’s.

        Yet, here we are again with the same old problem. Much like the question: “How can we tell which parts of the Bible are metaphor and which ones are literal?”, the clear corollary is “How can we tell which theologians are correct and which ones are mistaken?” The only response to these important questions I have ever heard is “Don’t practice scientism”, or perhaps the more droll “I’ve got it right, trust me”.

  2. Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t worry too much about Kimel. Never mind the direct and unequivocal claims in the Bible that Jesus Spoke the world into existence; Kimel denies that Jesus had anything to do with creation. Full exchange here:

    http://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/the-why-of-god/

    Typical salad bar Christian, in other words — just with a fancier vocabulary.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Not only is he a cherry picker, he makes them out of silly putty. 🙂

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      OMG don’t get me started on the logos

      • Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        The Christian version has much more in common with a magic spell “word of command” sort of thing than anything else….

        b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

          Ahhhh damn that lazy monk to hell that sucked in Greek!

          • Posted June 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

            ρουφώ, απομυζώ, βυζαίνω, εκμυζώ, θηλάζω…it’s all Greek to me….

            b&

            • John Scanlon, FCD
              Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

              +elebenty

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

              Since those are al, versions of “I suck”, this is what that monk should have to write over & over.

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

                Reminds me of the gag about Eskimo words for, “snow.” I guess the Greeks really know their suckage, don’t they?

                b&

      • Moarscienceplz
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I’d much rather work with the Legos.
        😉

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 22, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Me too!

    • eclectic squire
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Is Frater Kimel’s theology related specifically to the Orthodox POV? They self-regard as the true church from which the Roman Catholics broke away, adopting celibacy etc:

      • Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Kimel is a priest in one of the sects that calls itself, “Orthodox,” and, “Catholic,” but which doesn’t bear allegiance to Rome and the Pope.

        In my experience, all Christian sects view themselves as the One True Church™ and the only one that actually traces its roots back to the original, with all the other sects being the heretics.

        And, you know what?

        They’re all right.

        When an amoeba divides, which of the two new amoebae is the original and which the copy? Which one the parent and which the child? Which has the true and proper claim to originality?

        So it is not merely with Christian sects, but extending forwards and backwards as well to encompass all Abrahamic religions. Who’s more “original”: the Lubavitcher, the Mormon, or the Sufi?

        b&

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Ben Goren, could you point out in Fr. Kimel’s post that you gave a link to where Father Kimel denies that Jesus had anything to do with creation. I have read this post when it was first posted, and I read it again and I did not see that.

      • Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        He wrote, in response to me:

        You write: “Either Jesus had something to do with the Big Bang or he did not.” Let’s keep Jesus and the Trinity out of our discussion for the moment. Is God involved in the Big Bang?

        I jumped all over him on that, quoting not only John 1:1 but Colossians 1:16. He did not see fit to reply and instead let his Ultimate Blasphemy stand, even though he remained active in the thread after that (including other responses to me).

        A Christian priest who’s eager to keep Jesus out of discussions of creation is a strange duck, indeed.

        Cheers,

        b&

  3. Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Fr. stands for Frater (Latin for “brother”), much like Sor stands for Soror (sister).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Who are the patriarchs? Are they the frater bosses? Church hierarchies perplex me.

      • W.Benson
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I’m no monks uncle.

        • W.Benson
          Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Or is it vice-versa?

          • Moarscienceplz
            Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

            A lost traveller stops at a monastery to ask directions, and is offered a delicious meal of fish and chips. At the end of the repast, he walks into the kitchen to praise the chef. Seeing only one person there, he asks, “Are you the fish fryer?” “No, I’m the chip monk.”
            *rimshot*

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

              -1

              😉

            • Diane G.
              Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

              😀

            • Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

              “Ah, that would explain why you have batter all down your front.”

              “Yeah – it’s a bad habit.”

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

                Nice one!

  4. Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Who wants a god of St. Antony? I don’t think any believer would want such a god, a god who is indifferent. Fr. Kimel wouldn’t pray to such a god.

  5. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    ‘Fr’? – Fraudulent representation.

  6. Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    These theologians are their own refutation for the existence of gods…they are unable to provide a coherent definition of just what they mean by a “god”.

  7. Daryl
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    If God can’t be influenced by humans then what’s the point in praying to him? Is praying just for our benefit? Surely then this demonstrates the futility of such actions better than any atheist could ever do.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    “Our God is indeed personal, which is why we dare to pray to him, petition him, intercede with him, and seek to obey his commandments.”

    If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, why even pray? What’s the use? God already “knows” what the person wants/is praying for. So to make life easier for the fearful flock, why not just say “pray” and God can sort out exactly what you were going to pray about without spending all the time and energy. Then again, being pragmatic and religious is an oxymoron.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Plus he is the last, the present, the future – he sees all so why bother?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Last = past

    • Scote
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Quite. What kind of god would *know* that you needed help and be able to provide it without effort, but also demand you beg for it to get it. (And even then, withhold it on a basis indistinguishable from random chance.)

    • Moarscienceplz
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Here’s why people pray:

      O Lord, please don’t burn us.
      Don’t grill or toast Your flock.
      Don’t put us on the barbecue
      Or simmer us in stock.
      Don’t braise or bake or boil us
      Or stir-fry us in a wok.
      Oh, please don’t lightly poach us
      Or baste us with hot fat.
      Don’t fricassee or roast us
      Or boil us in a vat,
      And please don’t stick Thy servants, Lord,
      In a Rotissomat.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        In the gist of the barbeque lingo I can only say; Well done!

      • Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink



        b&

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          Hadn’t seen that one, thanks. 🙂

        • Mark R.
          Posted June 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

          yeah, thanks…didn’t realize it was a Python skit…could have guessed! Palin is one of my faves.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        Classic!

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      I found at a young age that I got about the same results praying to God as I did to Joe Pesci.

  9. GBJames
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    sub

  10. Filippo
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    sub

  11. Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    God thinks just like you, Fr. Kimel. That is also the title of a segment on one of my favorite shows, Reasonable Doubts, I’ll take the opportunity to plug:

    http://m.youtube.com/user/Doubtcast

    • Scote
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Let me second that. The Reasonable Doubt Podcast is excellent, and, more than most atheist podcast, is filled with some excellent science on the psychology that affects belief, morality and social behavior.

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/

      You can subscribe through iTunes. I found the Roots of Morality episode to be fascinating, featuring the science behind our moral impulses and how they relate to religion. I hadn’t known that our morality is based largely on a quick “gut” feeling, but often automatically back filled with a “rational” explanation for why we made the choice, hence why so many Christians cherry pick the bible, and why their cherry picked version of the bible sounds so much like them.

    • Posted June 23, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Or, to quote a profound but fictional theist:

      “What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished, not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes, we stand in front of the light and assume we are the center of the universe – God looks astonishingly like we do!” – G’Kar.

      (Of course the irony is that the real author of the words is not a theist at all …)

  12. Bob Carlson
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Googling wrath of god, without quotes, results in 2,690,000 hits; in quotes, 715,000 hits. One of the hits is a web page listing 58 Bible verses about Wrath of God. The majority are from the New Testament.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      The web will be the end of many religious canards.

      I think I see the grinning of the Ceiling Cat.

    • Shwell Thanksh
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      But is the wrath of god mome, and does it outgrabe?

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

        That should be: does it outgribe?

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Kimel’s anthropomorphic magical agency behaves like an AI without hormones. And that lack of understanding of the human condition is supposed to woo us?

    … Christians … apparently understand this difference a lot better than does Dr Jerry Coyne.

    Since atheists on average knows more about religion, including abrahamistic, than the average religious, including abrahamistic religious, I doubt that. [Pew Institute statistics.]

    Yes, apparently _skeptics know “this and that religious difference” better than christians_! Not better than all priests or theologians perhaps. That would be an even worse shame on them if they didn’t have experts on their own subject. But better than what Kimel unashamedly lies about.

    To borrow from Carroll, I don’t know why that fact isn’t widely known. Because it deserves to be widely known.

    If you want to go by what theologians say, all bets are off, for different theologians say different things about God.

    So, as they (should) say:

    If you want to know about theologians, study theologians.

    But if you want to know about religion, study atheists.

  14. Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Imagine if people spent as much time discussing the nuances of a dragon’s traits, proclivities, capabilities, caprices and temperament as they do discussing those of God. There is no more evidence of His existence than there is of the dragon’s.

    • reasonshark
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Some do. It’s called the fantasy genre, and the major difference is that they KNOW it’s fiction.

  15. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Oh sure, anthropomorphism of gods is a modern invention.

    Ranks right up there other great modern inventions like the aqueducts and a regulation-width network of international roads.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      And stone tools.

    • Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      also modern, the idea the bibble is the word of doG

      • teacupoftheapocalypse
        Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        “And in Genoa, ’tis now the fashion to pin a live frog to the shoulder braid, stand in a bucket and go “bibble” at passers by.” – Sir Edmund Blackadder.

  16. Kevin
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    God = God. We have moved from nowhere to nowhere.

    Why do I get the feeling that anytime people have to move their brains to think of what god is, it is because an atheist asked them, “What do you mean by God?”

  17. Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    If human beings (and all other elements of the universe/multiverse)are stardust AND we are “made in the image of God”, God must be stardust also. In which case, he could be anything with any characteristics. One might as well pray to asteroids or ants.

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Ah no! We are anthropoid beings, so according to good theology, god has to be an anthropoid being (perhaps immaterial). Now recent, and sound, and even scientific revelation of a flying spaghetti monster, using (inverse) theological acumen should indicate the existence of spaghettipoid beings worshipping a spaghettipoid god. So at least one earth-like planet around a distant star has to be populated by spaghettipoid beings, that is, spaghetti monsters.

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Or the star that died so you could have iron in your blood!

  18. MR
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Christian “orthodoxy” developed over the centuries through politics and bloodshed, in particular in the 4th century. In other words, it didn’t have to do with rational discourse or even biblical reflection, but particular interpretations of the nature of Jesus and God which were then imposed on everyone to accept, Christians included, by punishment of banishment or death. There are two excellent but overlapping historical books I’ve come across which present this thesis with extensive references and great narration:

    Charles Freeman – The Closing of the Western Mind
    Phillip Jenkins – Jesus Wars

    Below is a sample from the Introduction of Jenkins Jesus Wars(from pages xi-xii -if there is mistyping of the quote – my errors). You won’t fully understand the context, but you will get some of the main points from this:

    “It remains quite possible to read the New Testament and find very different Christologies, which by definition arose from churches very close to Jesus’ time, and to his thought world. In particular, we easily find passages that suggest that the man Jesus achieved Godhood at a specific moment during his life, or indeed after his earthly death.

    In political terms, the most important critics of Chalcedon were those who stressed Christ’s one divine nature, and from the Greek words for “one nature,” we call them Monophysites. Not only were Monophysites numerous and influential, but they dominated much of the Christian world and the Roman Empire long after Chalcedon had done its work, and they were only defeated after decades of bloody struggle. Centuries after Chalcedon, Monophysites continued to prevail in the most ancient regions of Christianity, such as Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. The heirs of the very oldest churches, the ones with the most direct and authentic ties to the apostolic age, found their distinctive interpretation of Christ ruled as heretical. Pedigree counted for little in these struggles.

    Each side persecuted its rivals when it had the opportunity to do so, and tens of thousands—at least —perished. Christ’s nature was a cause for which people were prepared to kill and to die, to persecute or to suffer martyrdom. Modern Christians rarely feel much sympathy for either side in such bygone religious wars. Did the issues at stake really matter enough to justify bloodshed? Yet obviously, people at the time had no such qualms and cared passionately about how believers were supposed to understand the Christ they worshipped. Failing to understand Christ’s natures properly made nonsense of everything Christians treasured: the content of salvation and redemption, the character of liturgy and Eucharist, the figure of the Virgin Mary. Each side had its absolute truth, faith in which was essential to salvation.”

    • Chris
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      You know that, we know that, most Christians don’t (or, at least, won’t admit that human politics has had the greatest affect on their beliefs!).

    • Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      On the other hand, it is also an opportunity for someone who wants another sort of power to say “Those guys are not like us, they believe and think differently, so they are not *really* worthy.” And then it becomes “So we can kill or enslave (etc.) them.”

  19. Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Nice article. It’s hard to argue with reasoning like “God is God”. There’s a tiny group of people, and even a few card-carrying Big Religion members among them, who have invented very abstract, weasely, nonanthropomorphic gods that require new arguments to refute, but the fact remains that the gods that the other 99.999% believes in, including this smallfry of a friar Kimel, are hilariously silly anthromorphic strawman gods. Usually argument-by-appeal-to-strawmen is a false argument, but the god that people like Kimel believe in actually are strawmen. Theists made the strawmen, not atheists. Our job is so easy.

    • reasonshark
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      What I find dishonest about these “abstract, weasely, nonanthropomorphic gods” is that a religious apologist does no more than assert that they are abstract and non-anthropomorphic, as well as transcendent, omnipotent, etc. They think this kind of ad hoc invention and excuse-making is intellectually respectable, even though it puts them on par with con artists, cultists, conspiracy theorists, and propagandists in intellectual integrity, merely because their brand of fabrication and rationalization is about “big stuff” like ethics and existence.

      Yet, physicists and cosmologists have to work hard, run a gauntlet of criticism, avoid the temptations of intellectual shortcuts, and support their ideas with rigorous testing and mathematics, only to make provisional hypotheses and theories about the “material” universe, which is apparently lesser and easier to understand than the “spiritual” one. And religious apologists think they do a better job by reading a subset of outdated human texts, dabbling in a bit of philosophy, and giving baseless interpretations of a tradition of an interpretation of a commentary of a copy of a copy of a copy of a record of a rumour of an event which, as recorded, wouldn’t look out of place in a book of fairy tales.

      At this point, they’re just looking for an excuse to stay relevant, and any important-sounding, self-aggrandizing assertion will apparently do, no matter how baseless it is.

  20. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    It is absurd to think that the Deity could be helped or harmed by human deeds. God is good and does only good; He harms no one and remains always the same.

    When a 1000 year old variant of the no true scotsman fallacy is your go-to notion of how to describe your god, then it is no wonder that there are 41.000 different denominations concerning the same deity.

    And apparently the problem of evil doesn’t even exist in this version of yahweh.

    Suffering is easily dismissed when you pretend it isn’t really there.

    If Mr. Kimel really believes in this kind of a god and truly believes it is not helped by human deeds then why has he chosen a career helping spread the word of this god?

    It shouldn’t be necessary unless you’re trying to save your own arse from an eternity of tender roasting.

    • Moarscienceplz
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      ” why has he chosen a career helping spread the word of this god?”

      Hmmm,let’s see … Your job mostly consists of telling people your opinions – opinions which can’t really be refuted because they are not based on facts, and it is almost impossible to be fired.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention a golden ticket to the chocolate factory….provided you reap some souls for your divine dictator above.

        Even though He doesn’t really need it when push comes to shove.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      But isn’t it nice to know, as your ass is tenderly roasting and you’re writhing in indescribable pain for eternity, that it’s nothing personal.

      • Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        It’s not only not personal, you chose it yourself! God had nothing to do with it!

        Don’t you go asking who stacked the logs and lit the fire, now. God don’t want none of yer lip!

    • Shwell Thanksh
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      “It is absurd to think that…”

      If argument from incredulity is the best defense a bible-thumper can come up with, he’s already destroyed his own proffer.

  21. michaelfugate
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Kimel’s arguments always boil down to “because it is” – Jesus is God not a god, or a demi-god – why? because he is? God is not emotional, why? because he isn’t. I am sure it makes sense to him, but only if you believe already does it make sense to anyone else.

  22. Craig Gallagher
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Kimel’s post strikes me as a neat validation of the quip that theology is nothing more than blind men searching a dark room for a black cat that isn’t there.

    • reasonshark
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      While sitting in armchairs, knighting themselves because they’re at least looking, and arguing passionately over what milk it likes best.

  23. Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    “God is God.”
    Q.E.D.

    • Posted June 22, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Not symmetric enough.

      God = doG

      is closer.

      god = po6

      That one at least has rotational symmetry….

      b&

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Now it looks like it is Cyrillic for rob.

        • Posted June 22, 2014 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          Aha! That’s it! In Soviet Russia, your god po6s you!

          Only here in the West, the gods have agents (“priests”) to do the robbing on their behalf. So much more dignified, don’t you agree?

          b&

    • Shwell Thanksh
      Posted June 22, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Q.E.D. might be a bit strong here… what’s the Latin for “That which was assumed as a premise in the first place?”

      • Posted June 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        Oh yes, how silly of me. My take on Fr. Kimel’s word was much too fundamental and failed to address the core of his continuing blathering in the comments section after his post. I’ll try again.

        Premise: God is God.

        God is not time.

        God is not substance.

        God is not good, better or best.

        God could do anything.

        Creating a universe falls under anything.

        The Universe is here.

        Everything God is not is what the Universe is.

        God is not not God.

        God is God.

        Q.E.D.

      • Posted June 22, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        The phrase you’re looking for is “petitio principii.”

  24. amanimal
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile in Iceland:

    ‘Why Icelanders are wary of elves living beneath the rocks’
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27907358

    It ought to be blindingly obvious that we’re not fundamentally a rational species.

    – Mark

  25. mcarp0
    Posted June 22, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    re: “Sinners in the hands of an angry god”

    That sermon reminds me of the 20+ years the first half of my life spent listening to words just like that. In fact I’m MAD AS HELL they did that to me and I’ve spent the last half of my life getting over it. I mostly am but now and then I get a moment like an excerpt from this sermon that reminds me.

    How DARE they presume “God” is all good! I’ll never be able to relive the first 20 years of my life, thanks theists.

  26. madscientist
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    If you know nothing of god then you know at least as much as any rabbi/priest/whatever. It’s funny how people fail to realize that.

  27. Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    the continued procedure of making any and every god more vague so they can still be claimed to exist. So much for the claims of “truth” from religion.

  28. Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks for doing this sir; but it must take some effort not to just laugh. It’s rather like people arguing about the true nature of a character in a novel. (Well, not like it — it is just that.)

  29. eric
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Kimel says one thing, St. Anthony says another, Edwards says yet another, and we could probobaly very easily find 10 more Christian theologians saying 10 (or 11, or 12) other different, often contradictory things about the nature of God.

    Its boys on the playground, pointing fingers at each other, calling out “bang,” and arguing over who shot who.

  30. Fr Aidan Kimel
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Like all bloggers I rejoice when my articles get cited and discussed on other blogs. We live for the traffic. So thanks, Jerry.

    Now to the question of anthropomorphism and my quotation from St Anthony, one of the great ascetics of the Church. His insistence on the dispassionate and immutable nature of God is representative of the consensual tradition of both the patristic and medieval Church, both in East and West. This isn’t news. This is Theology 101. All you have to do is to pick up an older (pre-20th century) volume of dogmatic theology (whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or scholastic Protestant) and look under the locus devoted to the divine attributes, and you will see attributes like eternity, immutability, simplicity–each of which rule out the kind of anthropomorphism that concerns you. Or to put it in the language of St Thomas Aquinas, there ain’t no potentiality in the Godhead–God is pure Act.

    The Eastern tradition (which was the dominant theological tradition in the Church during the 1st millennium) begins its theological reflection with the via negativa: we must first deny of God all creaturely characteristics before we can say anything positive about him. Or as St Dionysius puts it, God is Beyond Being.

    You should know this, Jerry, and the only reason I can think that you do not is because you have restricted your theological reading to 20th century evangelical fundamentalists, who are imprisoned in their literalistic reading of the Scriptures. But evangelicalism is a post-Reformation, minority phenomenon and hardly representative of the wider Christian tradition. Until you acquaint yourself with real Christian theology, you will remain vulnerable to the charge that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    I see you grew up in Arlington, Virginia. Did you by any chance attend Woodmont Elementary School. One of my classmates was Suzie Coyne. A relative of yours?

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      The Eastern tradition (which was the dominant theological tradition in the Church during the 1st millennium) begins its theological reflection with the via negativa: we must first deny of God all creaturely characteristics before we can say anything positive about him. Or as St Dionysius puts it, God is Beyond Being.

      Let’s assume for a moment that your god is vacant of creaturely charateristics.

      On what grounds do you then describe it and what worth is human description of that which is beyond being?

      Until you acquaint yourself with real Christian theology, you will remain vulnerable to the charge that you don’t know what you are talking about.

      The No True Eastern Orthodox-fallacy doesn’t really promote your cause.

      But it’s good to know that you’re the arbiter of who is really a Christian and who is not.

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted June 23, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        Blockquote fail. Supposed to go like this:

        The Eastern tradition (which was the dominant theological tradition in the Church during the 1st millennium) begins its theological reflection with the via negativa: we must first deny of God all creaturely characteristics before we can say anything positive about him. Or as St Dionysius puts it, God is Beyond Being.

        Let’s assume for a moment that your god is vacant of creaturely charateristics.

        On what grounds do you then describe it and what worth is human description of that which is beyond being?

        • Posted June 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          I read the full post over at your site as well as much of the commentary below it. If I’m grasping the gist of your argument correctly, it is that we can define God in terms of negatives, “God is not good, God is not better, God is not best,” and so on. Then claiming that we cannot even in principle prove or disprove these claims scientifically does not simply allow the rest of the claims of any specific branch of Christianity to go unexamined.

          One popular notion that I often see dismissed in conversations like this is the concept of Carl Sagan’s invisible dragon in his garage. The rebuttal often starts out, “Well, that’s not my God…my God is Beyond Being, my God is the Ground of Being…” And this line of argument has mountains of literature attempting to support it, but the fact remains that Sagan could have just as easily give these attributes to his dragon. This would not remove the burden of proof he has to say that it manifested in his garage and has a measurable effect on reality. To borrow from Sam Harris, to claim otherwise is “how you play tennis without the net.”

          We can easily see the silliness of attaching definable and testable qualities to an undefined set if we apply this line of reasoning to some simple High School level mathematics. Let’s say we want to know about the nature of the tangent function. We initially start by stating that at θ = π/2, there is nothing we can say positively about it. We can say many things that it is not. It most certainly is not 0; it isn’t 1, it isn’t 2, in fact it isn’t any of the natural numbers. We now already have a literal infinity of things we can say it’s not, and on top of that we can say it isn’t infinity either for the limit n->∞ f(x) 0 * n = 0. So now we’re dealing with an infinite number of things that tan(π/2) is not and it’s at least bigger than the infinite number of countable things. All of this ultimately boils down to what we simply call “undefined.”

          All this is easily encompassed within the full description of the function tan(θ). Because there is a part of this entity that we can’t define, we are not free to now go on talking about the characteristics of tan(θ) where sin(θ) = 2 and cos(θ) = 3.

          A description of God as Ground of Being or Beyond Being likewise cannot be accompanied by prayers around the world proclaiming:
          “God from God, Light from Light,true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father,”
          and then have that obvious paradox dismissed because there is some subset of attributes that has infinite ways in which it isn’t defined. He simply can’t be both a being and not a being at the same time. The premise is incoherent, just like the tangent function at sin(θ) = 2 and cos(θ) = 3.

          It doesn’t matter if a mountain of internally consistent work is built on top of the idea that we are discussing tan(θ) at the point that sin(θ) = 2 and cos(θ) = 3. We can still discuss the merits of that premise regardless of our inability to define anything about tan(θ) where sin(θ) = 1 and cos(θ) = 0.

          Every member of any of the 40,000+ Christian denominations I’ve come across makes specific claims as to how their version of God acts in the world, and depending on the denomination, there’s even more opinions emanating from the individuals within each sect, the most common one being that Jesus ascended bodily into Heaven (assuming his mass and energy poofed out of this realm of existence is very similar to my above claim about tangents) and there are a number of embedded claims about nature there that have nothing to do with ineffable, undefinable attributes.

        • Fr Aidan Kimel
          Posted June 23, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

          Does it matter, whatever I were to write in response? Of course not. But if you really want to explore the question of apophatic/cataphatic theology and the nature of theological language I can certainly recommend books for you to read. I’d probably first point you to the Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas. For an outstanding presentation of Aquinas’s views on this question, see *Speaking the Incomprehensible God* by Gregory Rocca.

          All I am saying is that if atheists wish to engage in SERIOUS debate about theism or Christianity, then they need to learn what ecumenical, mainstream, catholic Christianity really does believe and teach.

          This is just commonsense. Before you can critique anything, you have to understand what it is you are going to critique. Otherwise, all you are doing is speaking out of ignorance. It’s easy to set up strawmen and then knock them down.

          I’m not trying to convince you to believe in God, much less Christianity. I’m just asking you folks to stop caricaturing the Christian understanding of God. Is that too much to ask?

          Daniel Dennett’s first rule: “You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, ‘Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.'”

          That’s all I’m asking of you guys. Why is this an unreasonable expectation?

          • GBJames
            Posted June 23, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            “This is just commonsens”

            No, this is bullshit. The entire enterprise of theology is based on an assumption that something exists for which there is not the thin it’s shred of evidence. One does not need to study the intricacies of proper etiquette at faierie banquets in the glen to point out that there is no reason to believe in fairies. The emperor has no clothes. We don’t need to study the fabric he’s not wearing.

            • Posted June 23, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

              The entire enterprise of theology is based on an assumption that something exists for which there is not the thin it’s shred of evidence.

              It’s actually much, much worse than that. We’ve known since at least Epicurus, centuries before the invention of Christianity, that there are no powerful agents with the best interests of humanity at heart.

              Aidan, get back to us when Jesus starts calling 9-1-1 the same way any responsible adult — hell, most irresponsible children — would with knowledge of serious criminal activity or a person in danger. Until then, your imaginary friends and your boogeymen are your problem, one you should seek the help of a qualified mental health professional to address.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Fr Aidan Kimel
                Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                I give up, guys. There is no having a constructive discussion with you. Your comments confirm everything I have written–and so much, much more.

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                Well, what do you expect?

                You’re arguing for the supreme importance of faith, the ultimate form of gullibility. How do you expect to have an adult conversation with anybody on the subject, especially considering your holiest of holies is a fourth-rate Bronze age faery tale anthology?

                And even when you try to pretend to sophistication, it’s to toss out blatant contradictions and special pleading like hand grenades. All your omni-properties? They’re no different from a young child proudly citing, “Infinity plus infinity times infinity to the infinity power!” as the largest number. Every bit as incoherent and meaningless, and much less charming.

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

                +infinity

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

                * -1 (for the god of negative attributes)

              • GBJames
                Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

                You know, Aidan, we could move forward if you would provide evidence for the existence of your deity and explain why it is the correct alternative to the thousands of other deities humanity has claimed to be true.

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

                That he could never do, and so he flounced. It is useless to deal with the most sophisticated concept of a god until you have evidence that said god exists. And we don’t.

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

                Evidence would be delightful. I’d settle just for something that’s not defined out of the gate as blatantly absurd.

                Is that really so much to ask? For a god that’s not defined as a married bachelor, once you strip away all the flowery language?

                Hell, Deepak’s Universal Quantum Consciousness probably passes that test, even if it instantly thereafter face-plants into the realities of undergraduate-level physics and physiology. So why can’t the Christians, who’ve been at this for so much longer, even make it that far?

                b&

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                I thought the analogy to the properties of an undefined tangent that I put forth was quite good and would’ve liked to see a response. I thought it was a pretty fitting metaphor for the direction these conversations normally trend. I got no answer, but such is life…

          • Posted June 23, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

            I’d probably first point you to the Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas.

            Seriously?

            Aquinas!?

            And you expect us to take you seriously?

            Hell, why not just trot out The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe while you’re at it? At least Lewis is mildly entertaining, and far less primitive and unsophisticated and ignorant than Aquinas.

            May I suggest? Take a class in basic science. We’ve learned just a wee few things in the past dozen centuries. For starters, we now know that Aristotle is complete bollocks and all that nonsense about primal causality is exactly that — bollocks. Indeed, we’ve know that about physics since Newton and about biology since Darwin, and what else is there relevant to the discussion?

            Before you can critique anything, you have to understand what it is you are going to critique.

            Sorry, but that’s the Courtier’s Reply. All one need do to know that Christianity is bullshit is read the Bible.

            Have you? Read the Bible?

            Did you notice the opening story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard? How ’bout the talking plant (on fire!) that gave magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero? Or the utterly bizarre zombie pr0n fantasy at the end where the king of the undead gets his intestines fondled through a gaping chest wound?

            Is it so unreasonable to suggest that maybe, just possibly perhaps, a book with such childish nonsense in it isn’t to be taken seriously?

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

              The Courtier’s Reply is, of course, absurd, but also hypocritical. Has any Sophisticated Theologian who has dedicated a lifetime to the mental contortions required to even attempt to make theology comport with reality spent time reading “the best” arguments for Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christian Science, Scientology, general polytheism, etc.? And I don’t mean some rudimentary study on the history of these traditions, I mean full immersion in all the work. Have they addressed all the “That’s not the Allah I Believe In” arguments sufficiently? I would venture to say that not only is it unlikely, it is impossible to have done so given the constraints the average human lifespan puts on people combined with the schismatic nature of any religion with a large number of followers. It is a game of wack-a-mole indeed and this simply isn’t a burden that should be placed on either side if an honest discussion is to be had. The most ironic part is that atheists often have immersed themselves in understanding religion more than the average theist does, yet when the bluff is called, it all falls back down on The No True Scotsman Fallacy.

              Many volumes have been written on many subjects. The difference between subjects with evidence and those without it is that in a scientific field, any expert can state the basic premises and assumptions in short order before building up to the volumes of detail. As Hitchens put it, rabbits in the precambrian would be sufficient to dismiss any amount of work claiming that it is impossible.

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

                “As Hitchens put it, rabbits in the precambrian would be sufficient to dismiss any amount of work claiming that it is impossible.”

                Haldane.

              • Posted June 23, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

                Ah yes. Hitchens at least has cited Haldane with this quip though. I’m not off my rocker…well not completely…at least closer to the rocker than creationists sit…

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

                🙂 @ chrisbuckley80 7:06 pm. (EDT)

          • Jesper Both Pedersen
            Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:12 am | Permalink

            You still haven’t answered my question.

            On what grounds can you describe a being that is beyond being and without creaturely characteristics?

            In other words, I’m asking you to back up your claims about your god with evidence.

            Got any?

            I’m not trying to convince you to believe in God, much less Christianity. I’m just asking you folks to stop caricaturing the Christian understanding of God. Is that too much to ask?

            Were not the ones caricaturing the Christian concept of a god. Christians are. There’s more than 40.000 different versions of faith in Yahweh and its proposed attributes are far from anthropomorphic.

            We’re not the ones describing god. We’re the ones asking for evidence.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:16 am | Permalink

              missed a rather important word, supposed to go like this. 🙂

              “and its proposed attributes are not far from anthropomorphic.

    • Posted June 23, 2014 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      The Christian doctrine of God is a very complicated subject in Christian history which can be seen in a paper by Perry Robinson titled “Anglican’s in Exile”. This paper was a response to Fr. Kimel’s posting on his old blog “Pontifications”. There is also an interesting post concerning “why I am not a Thomist 1″ by Dale Tuggy which is a good reply to the kind of assertion Fr. Kimel is offering here. I think it fits real nicely with what Dr. Coyne has asserted.

      Also it is interesting to note that the wiki article concerning the quotation of St. Antony in the Philokalia says this,”On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: 170 Texts
      This piece by Anthony was changed to an appendix in the English translation by Palmer, Sherrard and Ware (1979, p. 327), because of their view that the language and the general idea is not explicitly Christian and may not have been written by Antony”.

      • Fr Aidan Kimel
        Posted June 23, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        You are absolutely right. The Christian doctrine of God is a complicated subject. Some of the greatest minds in Western civilization have devoted lifetimes to study and expositing it.

        Dale Tuggy’s articles are irrelevant to this discussion, as he is a unitarian. I have no idea what he would think about Coyne’s article on anthropomorphism. You’ll have to ask him. As far as I know, he has not addressed the nature of theological language and biblical interpretation in print. But Feser nails him on theistic personalism. He is of course entitled to think about God in any way he chooses; but he stands outside classical Christian theism.

        • Posted June 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          What’s that I hear? Bagpipes?

          b&

        • Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

          As you well know, there is not *”classical Christian theism”* simplicter, there’s many viewpoints even amongst theologians. For example, why was Aquinas not orthodoxy for a while? Why did Descartes have to reach back to Augustine when he wanted to cover his heretical views and pretend to be a Christian? Why was there a reformation and such? These are distinct theologies, all Christian, all different.

    • Chris
      Posted June 25, 2014 at 3:26 am | Permalink

      I’m afraid that defining an entity (I use the term loosely as I’m not even sure that your God counts as one) by what it isn’t is completely incomprehensible.

      If this passes for good practise in Eastern Orthodox theology then it has kissed any claim on being a legitimate philosophical pursuit goodbye.

      “Hello, nice to meet you”
      “Hi, good to meet you too. My name is not David, not Adam, not Steve… “

  31. Posted June 23, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I really shouldn’t comment on things like this, but I can’t resist pointing out that if you had the foggiest idea what you were talking about you would know that an Orthodox priest is not likely to agree with Jonathan Edwards.

    • Posted June 23, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      If you had the foggiest notion what my post was about (let me spell it out for you: different religions make different claims about God), you wouldn’t be making an ignorant comment like this.

      Just in case you still don’t get it, my POINT was that an Orthodox priest doesn’t agree with a Presbyterian when it comes to stipulating what God is like.

      • Chris
        Posted June 25, 2014 at 3:20 am | Permalink

        It’s worse then that. It’s that different denominations in the same so-called religion also have completely different ideas about god.

        • Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          Yet, that doesn’t even speak to the different ideas about God amongst different people in the same denomination, or even worse yet, if there’s to be any consistency, different ideas amongst theologians (supposedly the most knowledgeable about their religion) and even past and present Popes disagreeing about what God is revealing. Shouldn’t it be a triviality for an omnipotent God to reveal the same exact thing to multiple people at the same time so as to clarify all this?

          • Posted June 25, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            You mean, like a press conference, or at least a PR release?

            But then, one might also ask why Jesus never calls 9-1-1….

            b&

  32. bobsgutarshop
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    When I read this post I thought about a young woman, 19 or 20 years old probably, that I encountered while jogging around the park two saturdays ago. She had on a t-shirt that said “Jesus is my Boyfriend.” That’s sounds straight up anthropomorphic to me. I very seriously doubt that any of St. Anthony’s musings on the subject factor into this woman’s concept of god. She just wants an imaginary boyfriend. Which is where the concept of Sophisticated TheologyTM always breaks down. Even if a believer is an intelligent, refined, well educated person, they are anything but sophisticated when it comes to their faith. Atheists are often far more well versed in, if not just more aware of, philosophical disputes within religious institutions, such as the extent to which god should seen as anthropomorphic. Mostly, the faithful are gonna adopt whatever brand of christianity is being sold to them by the pastor at their local church. In the rural south, communities I might add that are often in desperate need of advocacy, that pastor, that pillar of the community is a homophobic climate change denier that never finished the 8th grade. This is what makes the concept of sophisticated theology so insidious. It is a semantic dodge. It is meant to put the focus on philosophy and ecumenical politics. Faith fails its adherents when it offers empty palliatives instead practical guidance or a workable solution. People died in Katrina when they chose to stay and pray rather than flee New Orleans. There is nothing Fr. Kimel could write on this or any other subject that could resurrect these poor folks from their watery graves, or change the fact that, for many of them, their faith in god is what put them there.

  33. Posted June 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    The well-known “Pigeon Chess” simile applies to creationists and their woeful misunderstandings of science and awful behaviour: “They don’t know the rules, they knock the pieces over, they shit all over the board and then they fly home to coo over their victory.”

    Perhaps theologians should have their own (slightly more complex) corollary:

    “In Theologian Chess, the theologian has the entire chessboard to himself and only one piece: God. Whenever the opponent (who has no pieces) asks a question about God, the piece may be moved to a different square in any direction with no restriction on distance. This may be done infinitely until the questioner gets up and leaves.”


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] by this exchange at WEIT (and countless other examples of theologians redefining their gods out of reach of inquiry [often […]

%d bloggers like this: