4/19/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Stephen ~
Some people collect stamps; I critique Christian blogs for fun. So it was that I came across this little gem from the ever-delightful “Resurgence” site (yes, the stomping ground of that delightful man, Mark Driscoll), entitled “All Truth Belongs to God” [http://theresurgence.com/2012/04/11/all-truth-belongs-to-god]. Oh, I thought, this is going to be good.
The very second sentence in the blurb was the most astonishing nonsense I’d heard in months: “Nothing that is true ever contradicts God’s revealed word in the Bible.” If that isn’t Orwellian doublethink, then what is? The author (Matt) might as well just come out and say, “Whatever the Bible says is true... even if it isn’t”. It reminds of a statement I recently read from the Pope (quoted in http://bigthink.com/ideas/the-radicalism-of-obedience?page=2) in which he spoke of the “radicalism of obedience” (what in the metaphorical-god’s name is that?) It concerns me more than a little that Christians can reach a point where even uttering a blatant contradiction in terms is no longer a problem.
The absurdity continues:
"In our age, science and faith have become pitted against each other, like polar opposite magnets, as if there were no overlap, as if we must choose one or the other. The Scriptures don’t present truth that way though. God owns all of it and is so high above our brightest minds that they seem brain damaged in comparison."
Oh wow, what a relief. The Bible says truth is never going to be an issue. First we have a slightly dubious metaphor (polar opposite magnets... wouldn’t those attract each other?) and then a triumphant declaration that “God owns all of it”. (Hint: triumphant declarations are basically all you’ll find in this article.)
Now I understand that “Matt” really wishes that science and faith didn’t contradict one another. Having been an earnest intellectually-leaning Christian myself, I used to share his wish. But wishing something doesn’t make it so. This article neatly represents the attitude of so many Christians when it comes to this problem, which is why I find it so fascinating: it is a study in denial, diversion and wilful self-delusion, which are apparently essential features to being a thinking Christian these days.
Before I begin to tear apart the non-argument contained in this article, it is interesting to me that such an article needs to be written in the first place. The hidden assumption is that there are self-evident “truths” out there which contradict “God’s Word”. Matt doesn’t even need to mention examples to his readers (try: heliocentrism, evolution by natural selection, historical criticism of the Bible, humanistic morality - to mention just a few) because by now it is probably so obvious to all but the most sheltered Christian that their faith just doesn’t match up to what is obviously true about the world any more. What interesting times we live in. Christianity has lost its hegemony on what is considered true, and every thinking Christian seems to know it! So, do they do the honest and noble thing, admit they were mistaken, and give up the outdated beliefs? Not on your life! And here the fun begins...
So how does our True Believer Intellectual solve this problem? Step one: simply declare that there is no problem. This is the gist of the first part of the article. For example:
"So we should never freak out about people who claim to have discovered truth. If it’s true truth, God owns it and has already accounted for it..."
(Notice how he sneaks in the word “claim”. He just doesn’t want to face it, does he?)
“God owns it and has already accounted for it”. Translation: “You scientists think you know everything, but God knew it all along! Nya nya nya nya nya!” This is the kind of attitude that allows the Pope to declare, about 400 years too late, that Galileo was right after all, without feeling the need to answer the implications this has for belief in inerrancy of the Scriptures and the Church. Or modern evangelicals who claim that the Bible never condoned slavery, ever - tell that to their Bible-believing forebears who fought to the death for the exact opposite point of view!
What a revealing little turn of phrase: “If it’s true truth...” The obvious implication is that there is such a thing as “false truth”. Excuse me? So Matt desperately wants there to be just one kind of truth, but he can’t avoid the fact that some of it self-evidently does contradict what he believes, so he creates a delightful distinction: there is “true truth” (i.e. whatever Christians can believe) and “false truth” (i.e. what seems to be true, but doesn’t fit with Christianity). These few words undermine his entire premise. But he bashes on regardless...
"...While nothing that is true ever contradicts God’s revealed word in the Bible, discovered truth sometimes contradicts the words of Christians."
Wow, there are some interesting word games going on there. We have yet another bifurcation of the supposedly unitary “truth”: “revealed truth” and “discovered truth”. And, in another corner, we have “the words of Christians”. This is a beautiful system for filtering out any potentially threatening facts. Notice how, in his formulation, he does not put “discovered truth” (presumably, evidence-based reasoning) up against “God’s revealed word”. He doesn’t even allow them to get in the same boxing ring. No, if evidence/science wants to pick a fight, it must go batter the Badass Bible’s poor sibling, the weakling “word of Christians”. Matt and BibleGod can stand by and watch science beat the living crap out of Christian “interpretation” or “opinion”, then walk away arm in arm saying, “You see, those mere human understandings didn’t stand a chance against truth - which of course you had all along, Big Guy”.
"The truth is that the truth is ours—all truth is our truth because we are of Christ and Christ is of the sovereign God."
In other words: “All your truth are belong to us!” In case you hadn’t noticed, Matt believes that what God says is true because if God says it’s true, then it’s true, OK? And if you don’t like it then you can just go jump. In a lake. Of fire. Forever.
What follows from this point (see “God is over the macro and the micro” and “God spans it all”) is a breathtaking piece of worship-as-diversion, a common feature of the modern charismatic psychological project. Enough of all that pesky worrying about facts that might contradict the Bible, let’s just pretend God does exist and blow your mind with how Totally Awesome He Surely Is...
I agree that if there really was an omniscient God, he would have to be one seriously impressively complex and enormous Dude of all Dudes. He would, as Matt says, have to know “every atom and every molecule”, “their positions, their locations, their functions” and so on. But that is precisely what makes the whole thing so unbelievable. Richard Dawkins’ “Ultimate 747” metaphor comes to mind: to explain the creation and existence of an exceedingly complex Universe by proposing an even more complex all-seeing “creator” behind it all is to replace one stupendous mystery with an even greater one. If complex things can “only” be created by an intelligent agent (hint: this is not true), then it logically follows that God, who is even more complex than the Universe he is said to have created, needs to have been himself created by an even greater intelligence. And so on, ad absurdum.
And Matt’s homily to the giant megabrain God running the Matrix simulation in which we live (and move, and have our being?) can’t help but raise some achingly obvious problems, e.g.:
"From the velocity of every butterfly’s flapping wings at every second to the exact amount of magma to the microgram flowing out of every volcano above and under sea level, he spans it all simultaneously and precisely."
(“Magma”. Say it slowly, like Doctor Evil.)
So, Goddy-Boy here knows about the movement of every microgram of magma beneath the sea? Gosh, you mean the kind of movement that causes earthquakes and tsunamis? Those things that kill thousands upon thousands of people? AND HE DOES NOTHING TO STOP THIS? Really, Matt, if there is a great Architect of this Matrix running the whole damn thing, I don’t see much evidence that he’s doing it for our benefit. He might just as well be a malicious Evil God (thanks, Richard Carrier) running the whole thing for some sadistic pleasure.
And then Matt ends the whole thing with a quote from the ever-delightful Book of Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Job 38:4
That’s it, God. You just tell ‘em how puny and stupid they are. “Do you know everything, human? No? So shut up and stop asking so many awkward questions! Yes, I could use my little Bible to tell you about germs in the Bronze Ages already and save you a few thousand years of misery, but that would be making it too easy, now wouldn’t it? And when you do discover this for yourselves, don’t get all arrogant on me - I knew that stuff all along! All truth is mine, remember?”
Ah yes, the faith of Job. The guy who by all rights should have become an atheist but just wouldn’t let go. The guy who could stand tall with the motto, “God gives and He takes away”. Let’s make a virtue of not understanding. Then terrorise all who dare to understand even a little. When all else fails, when all the evidence suggests that the Bible is a hopeless guide for truthful living, and that Christianity is a load of nonsense, just take the transcendental Magical Mystery Tour of “Gee, I don’t understand why the world looks nothing like the Bible says it should, but God must know and I’m just too scared to see it any other way”.