Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

The Task and Error of Apologetics; Making Evident the God which Everyone already Believes

I’ve been thinking a bit more about James Miller article about how everyone “already” sort of believes or know God and it struck me what does the task of apologetics consist in.

If we are to take what St Paul says in Acts 17:27 that God “be not far from everyone of us” that might seek him and feel after and find him, then the “evidence” for, or what “makes evident”, God to us cannot consist in difficult or abstract metaphysical propositions which are distant from the experiences and lives of individuals and non-philosophers. Can God command our whole allegiance whose only conduit to us is through a titanic act of intellectual abstraction?

Likewise falls under this critique the arguments for a need for some “special experience” or esoteric sensibility (whether “numinous” or “tremendum”, etc) known only to an elite set of mystics. God’s presence must be “immediately” evident to us, not mediated through complicated metaphysical propositions or refined religious sensibilities, the sort of immediate evidence whereby Cicero declares in his De Natural Decorum,

What could be more clear or obvious when we look up to the sky and contemplate the heavens, than that there is some divinity of superior intelligence?

In a sense, all of us “know” about God in the same way that we all know that the sun will rise again tomorrow or that the train will arrive at this time at this station, etc. Few of us would consciously formulate premises to be able to justify the regularity of nature or the reliability of our train or bus systems, even less possess the philosophical apparatus and concepts to do so. We know these facts “immediately” as part of the substance of our daily living, one might almost be tempted to say, for in these things “we live, and move, and have our being” or go about our lives. (Acts 17:28)

Thus the knowledge and belief in God cannot possibly be mediated by complicated metaphysics or esoteric spiritual experiences, but we need but lift up our eyes towards the heavens or observe the regularity of nature and we know of a divine order which regulates the cosmos, which order and regularity the substance of our lives depends and upon which we have presupposed in our own living, and which order we have always known and believed in.

If indeed the “evidence” for divinity is so “evident” to us, then the task of the apologetics changes to that of “proving” the existence of God to reconciling the meaning of God to our own immediate experience. Pointless are disputes over abstract metaphysical principles of “First Causes” or chains of being, for nobody lives their lives thinking in these categories.

Rather, we who proclaim that God “created” this world, we need to answer, what does it mean to say that God “created” this world of matter and energy, of regularity and order which yet is as liable to grow for us food as to strike us down with disasters? Neither piety nor faith is advanced by explaining God as Creator of this world in terms of a chain of “causation”, but something more immediate, more direct, and one might even say, more “existential” is required to reconcile the meaning God as Creator with the meaning of this world as we directly experience it and which constitutes the substance of our lives…

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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