Saturday 8 October 2011

Why I don't care about theology

Theology: "The study of the nature of God."

That's not the only definition, but it's a popular one and it's the one I'm using when I say I don't care about theology.

Take this conversation as an example:

It's a half-hour exchange between Alex Botten and Matt Slick, when the former called in to the latter's radio show. (It's actually the third such exchange — go to the the Fundamentally Flawed website to find the others.)

As evident in the recording Alex is knowledgeable about the Christian Bible and has several questions for Matt concerning such matters as the omniscience of God, original sin and how Jesus could be fully God and fully human at the same time. Matt is also knowledgeable and had answers for these questions. That's not to say that these answers were acceptable to Alex (or to me), but the point is that Matt had answers. Theologians and apologists always have answers for such questions. On the matter of Jesus being God and man, the answer was plainly nonsensical (as opposed to only vaguely nonsensical in the cases of God's omniscience and the concept of original sin).

But you're never going to get sensible answers to such questions, because the answers are designed to be nonsensical. Take the Trinity, for example — the only answer any theologian or apologist can give as an "explanation" of the three-in-one is to play the mystery card. If the Trinity could be explained in everyday, straightforward language that actually made sense, it would cease to be extraordinary, and without such extraordinary elements Christianity would be a mundane belief system that failed to move people. By including elements that are impervious to explanation and rational analysis, a belief system becomes "special", "mysterious" and "transcendent". In some ways such a system resembles conspiracy theory — belief in something against the trend, being party to secret knowledge, and belief that one has discovered a path to a higher power.

Here are some more conversations:

This is the Unbelievable? programme in which Peter S. Williams answered questions from listeners, coincidentally including one of those Alex raised with Matt: "How can Jesus be both God and man?", "Is there any evidence that Christians really have a 'relationship' with Jesus?" and "Was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet?" There are theological answers to these questions, and if you accept theology as a path to knowledge you might find Peter's answers acceptable. I don't, and I don't. In fact I find the questions mostly irrelevant in the light of theology's refusal to deal with the fundamental question, "Does God exist?"

Until that's properly addressed, any study of the "nature of God" is begging the question.