Monday, October 30, 2017

Should God be easy to grasp?

Recently I was listening to part of a debate between a Christian apologist and a Muslim apologist regarding the Trinity. I appreciate that Muslims find the Trinity confusing. They think Christian explanations are special pleading. Laboring to make sense of nonsense. 

No doubt Muslim theism is easier to grasp than Christian theism. But is that a problem for Christianity or Islam? Muslims suffer from the faulty assumption that God ought to be easy to understand. And there are, indeed, many religions whose deities are easy to grasp. Humanoid deities (e.g. Zeus, Thor, Odin). Deities that personify forces of nature (sun gods, storm gods, volcanic gods).. Deities that reflect stereotypical social roles (e.g. father gods, mother goddesses, war gods, sex goddesses). Animal gods. 

Their nature is easy to grasp because they reflect the natural order. Human, subhuman, inorganic. But that's what makes then impossible gods. They are comprehensible to a fault. 

The true God, to be God, must be infinitely more complex than humans, so it's only to be expected that God will in some measure surpass human understanding. God wouldn't be God if his nature was transparent to reason. There will always be dimensions to the divine nature that transcend human reason. We're not that smart.

There are many things in the natural world that tax the limits of human intelligence. Take quantum mechanics. And God is more complex than anything in the created order. So there's no presumption that the true God will be easy to understand. Just the opposite. What's surprising is not how little we're able to grasp, but how much we're able to grasp. We need to strike balance between the opposite errors of rationalism and apophaticism. 

An assumption governing physics is that bigger things are composed of smaller things. Complicated things are composed of simpler things. Living things are made of death things (atoms, molecules). So at the rock bottom of reality must be ultimately simple constituents. Perhaps that's true in reference to physical existents. 

But according to Christian theism, the ultimate reality is complex rather than simple. The ultimate reality isn't less and less of something. Not a process of reduction. In Christian theism, the ultimate reality is not a monad, but a symmetry of persons.  

1 comment:

  1. This came up in a discussion I had with a Muslim apologist in London. He made the argument that Allah was easy to understand and the Christian God was not. I didn't make every argument that I could have at the moment. I merely said, "Being hard to understand doesn't mean that it's not true." He dropped that line of argumentation immediately and went on to the next. He seemed to realize at that point that linking truth to simplicity is a non-sequitur.