Who is God? (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 21:25 (602 days ago)

Words cannot describe Him:


"Philosophy addresses questions that probably can’t be solved, now or ever. Examples (and these are of course debatable, some philosophers and scientists insist that science can answer all questions worth asking): Why is there something rather than nothing? Does free will exist? How does matter make a mind? What does quantum mechanics mean?


"When I say a problem is unsolvable, I don’t mean we should abandon it. Far from it. I love reading, writing and arguing about intractable puzzles. For example, I don’t believe in God, certainly not the God of my Catholic childhood. But I enjoy smart, imaginative theology (defined as the study of God) in the same way that I enjoy good science fiction. Two of my favorite theologians are physicist Freeman Dyson and psychedelic adventurer Terence McKenna.


"I’m especially fond of what is known as negative theology. Negative theology assumes that God exists but insists that He/She/It/They transcends human language and concepts. Negative theologians try to say—over and over again, and sometimes with great eloquence—what they acknowledge cannot be said.

"Negative theology is an outgrowth of mysticism. Mystical experiences, as defined by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, possess two seemingly contradictory properties. They are on the one hand “noetic,” that is, you feel you are gaining profound insight into and knowledge of reality. They are on the other hand “ineffable,” meaning you cannot convey your revelation in words.

"Mystical aphorisms often emphasize ineffability. “He who knows, does not speak,” the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu says, violating his own dictum. “He who speaks, does not know.” Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a medieval monk, describes mystical knowledge as being “at one with Him Who is indescribable.”


"But I’ve also become increasingly wary of our craving for absolute knowledge, and absolute certainty, especially when it comes to riddles like what is reality and what are we. People convinced that they possess ultimate knowledge can become self-righteous fanatics, capable of enslaving and exterminating others in the name of truth.

"Negative theology helps us avoid fanaticism by keeping us humble. We acknowledge, as an axiom, that ultimate truth will always elude us. Those who have a hard time accepting this anti-truth—and hence the premise of negative theology—should keep two points in mind. First, if we cannot grasp ultimate truth, we can pursue it forever, never losing sight of the mystery at the heart of things.

"Second, I’m not proposing negative theology as a model for science as a whole. Science has answered, conclusively, many questions, and it will answer many more, including, I hope, those listed at the beginning of this column. Problems related to infectious disease, mental illness, climate change and war will surely yield to dogged empirical inquiry. Although science will never entirely explain reality, it can make it more bearable."

Comment: this discussion is exactly on point with Adler's admonition that in thinking about God, realize He is a person like no other person. That is why I reject any sense of humanizing Him in discussions about what He did/does and why He did/does it.

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