Saturday 1 September 2012

Christian faith is like soup*

Mark Vernon
In the Guardian, Mark Vernon comments on new books by Rowan Williams and Francis Spufford, beginning by asking, "What's it like to be a Christian?" He expands this to mean, "...what is faith as experienced?"

On Spufford's Unapologetic:
A central worry for him is not that the rational justification for belief has been undone. Faith is not about that anyway: as Coleridge noted, the best argument for Christianity is that "it fits the human heart".
As if "fits the human heart" means anything. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite the fan of metaphorical language. But metaphor (along with simile, its more straight-talking cousin) is useful only up to a point. Great for feelings, intuition and opinion, but not much cop at conveying fact. Metaphors and similes are useful for pointing out near equivalencies, but unless one is aware of the inevitable mismatch between the metaphor and the thing for which it is metaphorical, one can be easily misled — or unknowingly uninformed — as to the actual nature of the thing being discussed.

On Williams' The Lion's World:
None of this proves the existence of God in the way a science would demand because its evidence arises from the inner lives of individuals.
Evidence of what? Indigestion? More imprecise mystery-mongering.
It does, though, reflect a strand in the philosophical discussion of God, often forgotten today. Pascal drew attention to the problem God has in revealing himself to creatures he has made to be free, because if God were to offer irrefutable evidence then that would force a relationship of coercion, not love. God's solution, Pascal proposed, is to "appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and [to remain] hidden from those who shun him".
How very … convenient.

Williams' book is largely about C. S. Lewis, so the preponderance of what Daniel C. Dennett calls deepities should not be a surprise.

*You didn't notice your soup bowl is directly under a leaking roof. No wonder it takes you so long to finish it, and no wonder it's so … thin.