Monday, August 12, 2019

Sophisticated Theology and Experience of The Divine

Image result for mystical experience

Ed Brayton [1] turns to Dan Linford's  article in Scientia Salon [2] to reduce all sophisticated views of God to rubish and make the big  man in the sky the only meaningful  standard of belief. He does this so that atheists can whip up on the big man in the sky and thus dismiss belief  in God, His argument is put succinctly: "When atheists say they don’t believe in God, they mean the sort of overly simplistic God that the rubes believe in, not the vague, unspecified, undefinable God that they believe in."

This gives us the immediate clue as to what he will argue but it shoulod be understood that he does not analyze  any other theological ideas except mystical theology. He does not deal with Tillich's God as being itself or with process theology or any other modern view point, for him its either big man in the sky or mysticism. Anyone who presents a stark contrast like this seems bent on putting the  opponent in a double bind. Moreover this sort of argument that the atheist view is not sophisticated really works best as an answer to specific atheist criticisms not as an argue standing on it;'s own terms. I would only use it in response to atheist attacks on big man in the sky. Be that as it may Brayton draws upon Linford for arguments.

Dan Linford has an article in Scientia Salon

This is the position of several authors who have written popular books on the subject over the last two decades: Karen Armstrong, John Haught, and David Bentley Hart, to name a few. I think these authors are incorrect. There are good reasons for rejecting belief even in their gods. Here I will focus on Armstrong’s version, but several of my remarks will be applicable to a number of other theologies.What sort of gods do these writers have in mind? If the wrong sort of God is “too small,” the right sort of God is much bigger: a radically transcendent being about which human languages can only speak indirectly. Armstrong claims that her God is beyond any of our conceptions of what a god might be like.  God is so far beyond human comprehension, she insists, that when we try to imagine God we instead imagine a false idol. God, she tells us, “is the God beyond [our idolatrous conception of] God”.[3]
We see immediate that Linford begins working to distort  the complexity in the concepts, he  defines the crucial issue as one of small god s Big God then Jumps to "transcendent" as though evangelicals don't believe in a transcend God. The issue is not small  vs big Gog in terms of God' nature that is a metaphor for theological thinking. No small Gods only small theologians. But my real ire toward Linford is his tendency to pigeon hole complex ideas and trying to give the impression that he knows all about them  and there;'s nothing  there when he he refuses  to even deal with the writings of the thinkers (by this I mean more tan bib reference for the work). Here is an example of his alleged scholarship, Here is how he dismisses  dialectics: 

He set's up a dichotomy between literlism and metaphorical speech then 


we learn that our initial way of speaking about God was naive: we cannot mean the same thing when we talk about God’s goodness as we do when we speak of humanly goodness. We say: “God is not good.” Here we deny that God has some (human) property...Many mystics insist that we should alternate between these two stages, affirming and denying, until we are left in a silence pointing to God.In the end, we learn that we do not know what we are saying when we speak of God. [4]
He's talking about a dialectic and he wants to dismiss that as a contradiction. He quotes Plantinga    castigating Armstrong but this does not mean that Plantinga would reject all dialectics. He's trying to paint  the whole approach with a broad brush and reducing all ideas to those to one writer, For example in my final chapter of The Trace of God I deal with these very issues. I do not take the approach that we can;t know anything about God. I argue that we can experience love and we know what we mean by the term "love" even if we can't put it into words. Thus we can know  God  is loving.

"Some theologians, such as Denys Turner and Thomas Aquinas, have suggested that we do not even know what it means to say that God exists." He is  really distorting that issue. Tillich also   makes the point that existence is for contingent things, God is being itself not existence, We are drawing a distinction between being and existence, Thus the statement is not as  bizarre as it seems.

the author  Ed Brayton sums up his view based upon Linford:

There is a tiny kernel of truth here, but far too small to support the grandiose claims of the mystics. It’s certainly true that many rank and file Christians, with their almost childlike literalism and inerrantism, believe in a God that is all too easily disproved. And it’s true that there are more reasonable versions of Christianity that need to be tackled. But this kind of mystical religiosity is so vague and incomprehensible and the best one could say about it is that it isn’t even wrong.[5]
First this statement is derived from ignoring the great diversity in mystical literature and reducing all view points to just Armstrong's. I think he's also taking Armstrong too literally no mystic says we really don't know anything.  The assumption is we know by experiencing not by words. The point is it is an epistemological position not philosophy of solipsism.Of course he's not sparing with the thinkers while he;s hung up on inerrancy. He doesn't demonstrate the disproving of any notion of God. He's confusing disagreement with proof. "But this kind of mystical religiosity is so vague and incomprehensible...." what kind? He hasn't read The Trace of God.[6] I guess he means the kind of straw man that is  constructed  out of reducing everything to Armstrong. the he says:

In order to be wrong it must say something that can, at the very least, be understood. Yet they begin their belief by admitting that we can’t really know anything about the subject at all, that we could not understand it even if we tried to. So what, one may be forgiven for asking, are they suggesting we believe at all on the subject? If it is undefinable and unsupportable, then, quite frankly, I think we’re done here. What more need — indeed, could — be said of it?
If course doesn't actually quote anything. Understanding the limitations of language comes in handy in all areas. Language itself is metaphor. Mystical theology is just a recognition of the fact that one can experience the divine directly in a way that transcends words and understanding i not about defining words on paper.


[1]Ed Brayton, "Dan Linford on ‘Sophisticated Theology’" Dispatches From The Culture Wars: Thoughts from the Interface of Science, Religion, Law ad Culture.  (Dec 7, 2014)
[accessed Aug 10, 2019]

Brayton is a comedian with no academic credentials not to say he needs any.

[2]Dan Linford  "Do atheists reject the “wrong kind of God”? Not likely" Scientia Salon, (Dec 4, 2014)
[accessed Aug 10, 2019]

Linford in 2014 phil people stated "Dan Linford is a doctoral student at Purdue University, Department of Philosophy"

[3] Linford  quoted in Brayton,  op cit

[4] Ibid

[5] Brayton,  op cit

[6] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God: Rational Warrant for Belief. Colorado Sprigs: Grand Viaduct, 2014,337.

see the book on Amazon 


Kristen said...

There are lots of things that atheists believe in that can't be fully understood. Lots of things in quantum physics are so strange that it's almost impossible to comprehend them. No human being really grasps what the number nine hundred billion is, or how big the universe really is. To say God is beyond our grasp is really not that odd a thing.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

I agree. I', always amazed y people who ind that offensive