Wednesday, August 14, 2019

God's audible voice

Having done a general commentary on Craig's treatment of Gen 1-3, I'd like to zoom in on one detail:

The anthropomorphic nature of God, which is merely hinted at in chap. 2, becomes inescapable in chap 3, where God is described as walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling audibly to Adam...many features of these stories are fantastic. That is to say, they are palpably false if taken literally.

1. Is Craig suggesting that if Gen 2-3 attributes an audible voice to God, that's palpably false if taken literally? In his overall treatment of the account, that's one of the "fantastic" features he singles out as metaphorical. 

2. If so, that's a remarkable position for a Christian apologist to take. It would be understandable from John Spong or Rudolf Bultmann. If he's stating a general principle, then it can't be confined to Gen 2-3 or Gen 1-11. The same principle extends to the patriarchal narratives, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Historical Books, the Prophets, the Gospels, Acts, &c. 

3. Over and above Scripture, many Christians claim that God spoke to them in an audible. I'm not suggesting that we should credit every reported voice of God. But if enough Christians say God spoke to them in an audible voice, that's evidence that it happens some of the time. Not all of them are wackos or charlatans. 

4. Perhaps, though, what Craig means by an "audible" voice is not a voice you hear in your mind, not God communicating telepathically, but a physical external voice. If God spoke to someone in an audible voice, and someone else was standing next to him, they'd both hear the voice. An objective sound. Maybe that's what Craig deems to be "fantastic" and "palpably false". 

If so, what is the basis of Craig's objection? Surely God can miraculously structure sound waves to create a disembodied, but external voice. I'd at that even on the telepathic interpretation, God is able to communicate the same message to two or more people at the same time. 

5. But maybe what Craig has in mind is not a disembodied voice, but an embodied voice. If God is an incorporeal being, then he can't use an audible voice in that sense.

But consider the Angel of the Lord. Consider the "mechanics" of the Angel of the Lord. In the OT, angels sometimes have physicality. They can materialize and dematerialize. In principle, the Angel of the Lord might have one of two modalities:

i) God takes possession of an actual angel. A preexistent angelic being–like Michael or Gabriel. He uses the angel as a vehicle to express himself–akin to how God sometimes takes possession of a human seer.  

ii) God creates a temporary body every time the Angel of the Lord appears. A temporary material vehicle to speak to humans and interact with the physical surroundings. And it ceases to exist after it serves the immediate purpose. It might be a humanoid body, or a luminous body, depending on how God wants to present himself. 

6. But maybe Craig's point is not that God's audible voice is "palpably false" considered in isolation, but as one more contribution to the overall scene in Gen 2-3. One of several cumulative, telltale signs that "these stories are fantastic (i.e. palpably false if taken literally)". 

Yet the "fantastic" details are a fixture of biblical supernaturalism. Unfortunately, Craig's treatment of Gen 1-3 is a gift to infidels. He argues that Gen 1-3 is pious fiction. While he avoids the term, that's what his position amounts to. And to judge by his treatment of Gen 1-3, we can expect him to treat the flood account as fictional, too. 

1 comment:

  1. Very curious as to what he then thinks of passages like John 12:28 or Matthew 3:17