Wednesday 30 November 2011

"Theology is piffle" — a debate worth having?

As part of a recent "Burnee links" I posted this comment:
God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness - You Will Want This Book!
No. You won't. This book-promotion on Choosing Hats comes with a 73-minute video of three blokes (including the author) discussing the book. I watched the first 15 minutes, and I recommend it only as a perfect illustration of why theology isn't about anything that has the slightest relation to what's going on in the real world. These guys appear to be articulate and intelligent, so it's a shame they're devoting so much energy to such piffle.
Here's the video:

...and here's a comment from Chris Bolt of Choosing Hats on the Burnee links post:
Thanks for the link Paul...I think.


Any time you are willing to debate, "Theology is Piffle" let me know!
Is it worth debating? Probably not, because in order to "debate" sensibly about something, both sides must be clear that they are discussing the same thing. Theology is "the study of the nature of God" — and as far as that goes it's less useful than the study of Star Trek.

Theology as a subject is no more than literary criticism — as is Trek fandom. Trek fans can get carried away worrying about continuity lapses and such-like, forgetting that Trek is man-made and that the reason some things in Star Trek don't make sense is that it was created by a fallible human being who made mistakes.

Using literary criticism to analyse Star Trek may produce insights into the nature of Roddenberry, because we start with the knowledge that he really existed and he really did create Star Trek. And we also know that Roddenberry did not present Star Trek as factual representation.

Applying literary criticism to scripture, however, will not produce insights into the nature of God, because we don't know that scripture was written by God, or that God even existed in the first place (regardless of whether scripture is factual, mythical or metaphorical). The best that theology might be able to offer is some insight into the cultural milieu of scripture's authors — who were human. Unfortunately theology persists in its claim that it is studying God, so its efforts are doomed from the start.

Until theologians admit that they are engaged in nothing more than literary criticism they can be left to their own insular devices, just like the more extreme end* of Trek fandom, while the rest of us attend to the real world.

* I have nothing against the more moderate spectrum of Trek fandom. At least they know that Star Trek is fiction.