Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Have I Denied God?

On CARM apologetics, someone was arguing that the YEC time line for civilization didn't make sense compared to the "real" time line anthropologists have pieced together. He argued that the world couldn't go from everyone on earth knowing God sent the flood and had Noah make the ark, to total polytheism, error and deceit (again) in just 299 years. He based that time frame on taking the genealogies in Genesis literally and assuming that children were born when the father's were young. Thus Ham's 500 life span overlapped with others and put him into the time of Abraham. So why wouldn't anyone listen to him?

That's actually a cogent argument, against a YEC, and why I am not a YEC (part of it). But his conclusion was that "Y" (the God of the bible, God of Ab, Isaac, Jacob) was just a myth derived from the polytheistic sources. Now that in itself is a pretty interesting problem. Because isn't it odd that the little old Jews, slaves in Egypt perhaps, or just hangers on among other Semitic tribes in the Levant, would come up with occam's razor a couple of thousand years before Occam? But I'm getting ahead of myself. Why would the Jewish monotheism by Occam's Razor? The Razor is basically the idea that we should not multiply entities beyond necessity. In other words, why stack up the idea of an essence of trueness to make trees be trees, when the basic facts that make trees require only the characteristics of trees and not some special additional quality of "trueness?" Thus, in cutting away all the other members of the various mid eastern pantheons and getting down to the heart of the matter of being; one all powerful, all knowing, all present creator God who tells Moses (at least in the LXX) I am being itself.

So the monotheistic approach is evidence of true religious genius on the part of the Jews, and yet the atheists don't see that as an advance, must less do they comprehend the argument, how could a race of religious geniuses be wrong?Be that as it may, the original argument still deserves an answer. How did human religious thinking move from this brilliance of, "one is all we need, so don't multiply gods beyond necessity," to vast polytheistic schemes, only to find the one again? Could that really be the way it would go? If so, what does that say for "Y" (Or "J") the God of the Bible? Should he have been known to everyone on earth from the beginning, and if known why would he himself be forgotten again, as in the time of the flood? This seems especially odd if there were fold people still around, Noah's kids.

My answer was that religious consciousness evolved slowly and from a primitive state, like all other thinking. It would have been natural to our preter human ancestors who were more in touch with nature wildlife than we are, and would have gradually become sharp over time to take on the personality and kingly qualities of the "God of the Bible." But wait! Isn't that just out and out giving up? Isn't that just admitting that the God of the Bible is a myth and that the atheist evolutionary account of religion is right? No! Of course not. Did any of you really think I was going to say that? On CRAM I said the literary image of "Y" is a metaphor for the true creator, and that this cultural image of the King of Heaven developed over time with the idea of heave itself. The stories of the Suzerain and Akkadian creation and flood are obviously the source of the Genesis creation myth, and are clearly must older. So its no doubt that Hebrew thinking and religious understanding developed out of the previously existing clutters and religious traditions of the fertile crescent, and developed over time. But it is a safe bet that no one worshiped "J" or "Y" by name during that pre-Israliate era.
No one on CARM has as of yet taken up the problem with my answer and offered a challenge. I expected the YEC's and fudies to challenge from the standard ponit that I"m denying the God of the Bible, and the atheists from the stand point that the God of the Bible can't be defended.

So I'll take up these challenges here. Am I not giving up the God of the Bible to reduce God to that of a literary metaphor? And how can the God of the Bible be defended when he derives as myth historically from other religious systems? Let's don't forget, God says, in the Bible, "I will not give my glory to another." Much is made of the name of God, so the name, the identity, the thing I'm calling "Metaphor" and saying developed over time, seems to be very important to the Bible. It's a crucial act of Deity in the Bible.

Fallacy of "God of the Bible."

This is a point I've tried to get across for a long time. The atheist and message board way of thinking has left its indelible mark in the form of this kind of thinking; "the Christian God," "your God," "the God of the Bible." But it's a fallacy to speak of all these differing gods as though they are all sitting in the "green room" Of ontology waiting to go on stage on some sort of metaphysical talk show that will give them existence. They are not competing possibilities; they are all different ideas about the same thing! That's the point about being itself. God is not one example of a huge category consisting of multiple possibilities. That's what it means to say "a god" as opposed to "God." If we deal with contingencies, any given contingency could be replaced by another. I have "a penny" but it doesn't have to be this penny that I hold in my hand, it could be any penny. It's one of many, its "a penny" because its' not "the penny." But God cannot be replaced. That's the fallacy of those atheists, God is not a contingency waiting to exist in a field of other possible gods. God is the only God there could be, we just all have different ideas about "him." Those ideas are different because they are filtered through our cultural constructs, but they are all born of wordless, imageless mystical experience that we experience at the most basic level of consciousness. Thus we are not dealing with a possibly of God...we are dealing with the only God there is or could be, not "a God" but God. Not "a being" but a category above our contingency, "being itself." This is the thing that being is, it is to be the will of this from of existing consciousness.

Specific God Personality: and Jesus

But what does this mean for "Y" the God of the Bible? Dose it mean that the name and the glory that attaches to that name can just as eaisly be dished out to MIthras or Buddha or Brahmin or whoever? Does it mean the voice that says "let there be light" is not the same as the figure who appears to Abraham to tell him Sarah will conceive? Does it mean that the entity which covenanted with Abraham is just a metaphor, just a made up figure like Santa Clause who is only loosely based upon a half backed reality we can never pin down? Of course not! Because this concept of God, as portrayed in the Bible (rather than "the God of the Bible") linked to the concrete historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. That links the character we see coming through the prhopets and the name we are given by the prophets with the actual representative of God on earth and links the identities together as indicative of the true reality spoken of as "being itself." That's why the name and glory are important, not because God is an ego maniac, which is suggested by immature skeptics all the time, but because it gives us a highway marker to associate the creator, the deity encountered by the people of Israel and Jesus of Nazareth all together as one reality.

Where does Myth Come in?

What about that Metaphor which I said developed over time and grew up with the Israelites? If "Y" is the reality of being itself and manifested himself as Jesus, where is the metaphor I spoke of? Well, first of all, in accepting that skeptic's assessment, we are getting ahead of ourselves. He wants to make a problem out of the fact that on one knew to Call God "Y" until the OT came out, or that no one knew to call God "I am" until Moses. So if these figures are not derived from human history all along, the assumption goes, then the whole fabric of the Bible must have been made up at some point in history and must be dependent upon forerunners. But the deceptive aspect is that anything in a text is a metaphor because all linage is metaphorical, and all religious language in particular is analogical; so it's all metaphor to begin with, and that doesn't separate it from the reality that the metaphor represents. The metaphor is found in the expectations we put into the symbol or the cypher that stands for the reality that the Biblical authors experienced. Some prophet may go up on a hill and what he experiences in prayer he cannot communicate clearly and we will never know what he really felt, saw, smelled, understood, but what comes out is a long diatribe against someone, for someone, pleading with a group of people to think and act a certain way; we fill that indication with expectations about God the king on a throne with a white beard. So the metpahor really exists in our heads and not on the pages of a text. In the text the find the literary element, but in our minds we carry with us the metaphorical image which is our individual understanding of God. That metaphor is wrong, and it has a history, it didn't exist before a certain time, but the thing it pertains to is not wrong and not false.

We should not find it strange that the idea of a particular personality of God and a name developed slowly. Nor should we find it strange that for millions of years there were no terrestrial beings on earth who knew that name. The earliest clear delineation of divine reality was probably some nameless feeling connected to a thunderstorm of something, it meant nothing to anyone, but stood apart form other nameless nothings connected to other forms of weather. But the Bible seems to imply sharp movements of revelation when some person, Abraham or Moses came to understand God in terms never before understood. No one else had ever been old "I am that I am" is his name. No one else had ever been told to go off into the wilderness and find a promised land. Let us not forget we don't know his real name. It cannot be prouneced and even the name we do have (which I write only as "Y"--which it isn't) is not the full name, but the name without the vowels--so that the "God of the Bible" is truley a mystery even to those follow. We do have hints of God reaching people in other religious systems. I've always been fascinated by Melchizadeck, the priest of Salem (pre-Israelite Jerusalem). He is described as "a preist of God most high" and yet, not connected to Israel or the Jews, what group worshiped that God? Would they have been worhsipping him as some pagan deity with a wired name and a carving in stone? We can't know. What we can know is, here was a guy, who was said to be an actual preist of the true God, who was worshipping God prior to the personaity of the "Bible God."

The only logical conclusion is that there is a reality to God that transcends culture and religious tradition and is not found just in the pages of the text. That reality has always been around as long as humans have had hearts. My only task as an apologist is to persaude atheists to be open to experiencing that reality, and to consult the text as a general guide.


tinythinker said...

It's a bit long. I don't want to do a point by point of something that big on the blog, so I posted a little something here.

J.L. Hinman said...

I found it and answered. I may put a link to it inside the blog.

I know most people keep blgs short, but I dont' think there's a rule about it.

D. P. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J.L. Hinman said...

that's interesting d.p. but I'm not familiar with that guy or his stuff.

Miss Penny HINKLER said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
servant said...

Hi Meta,

Enjoyed your discussion of metaphor... and your conclusion...

I too am fascinated by Melchizedec (and see other examples where Y revealed himself to non-Jewish persons, as recorded in the Bible)...

Also enjoyed your discussion of Occam's Razor...

Do you have any posts or online articles where you discuss the application of Occam's Razor to the Atheist Multiverse?

And do you think the Multiverse is a mandatory necessity to rescue Atheism (from the fine-tuning of the universe)? E.g., see article titled "The fine-tuned universe" on the website below...

I enjoy reading your posts...

Grace and Peace to you,
Your brother in Christ,


J.L. Hinman said...

Thansk servant. I have about 25 arugments agisnt multiverse as an answer to fin tuning. You can see them on my God arugment list on Doxa (under the anthropic arugment).

Would Occam work on multiverse, very good idea. HRG on CARM has argued that mathemcially multiverse is necessary. He's a mathematician so he can make that a lot more conviencing than I can make it seem not so. Therefore, I'm not the one to answer that one.