Thursday, 30 April 2015

Why we should not be too curious, or too definite, about the origins of God

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It is vital for a Christian to known something of the nature of God - we need to know God's 'character' (i.e. that he is primarily loving); and know our relationship to Him (that He is our Father, we are His children); and that because we are made in His image it is legitimate to regard Him 'anthropomorphically' (God as Man-like, and Man as God-like).

However, I think common sense tells us that we cannot know about the origins of God, or the basic situation in which God is. We cannot know 'the universe', the reality in which God dwells. We cannot know this kind of thing, and we should not suppose that we do know this sort of thing.

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Of course, we may entertain hypotheses on these matters - indeed we may not be able to help-ourselves, we may not be able to prevent ourselves from speculating. No harm done - maybe helpful.

But I feel that the lack of clear or detailed evidence from revelation (e.g. scripture), and the extreme difficulties of reasoning on these matters, is conclusive evidence that we are 'not meant', we are not intended, to make such metaphysical beliefs into a primary foundation of our Christian faith.

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Therefore, I think that although we need to know (and love) God 'as a person' - to build Christianity around believed knowledge claims concerning the fundamental metaphysical abstract qualities of God is an error - can indeed become a type of sin.

We should not try to force an answer to these matters - this is neither necessary, nor is it likely to be helpful to Christian faith. (People may, and people have, overcome such obstacles - but that does not mean they have been helpful.) 

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This is my strong objection to the standard approach of 'classical' Christian theology. I think Christianity made a serious mistake in its early centuries in establishing metaphysical assumptions about God at, or very near, the centre of the faith as unarguable, primary, non-optional dogmas.

I mean for example such beliefs as that God is necessarily omnipotent and omniscient; and that God existed and exists in a situation of nothingness (outside time and space) and created everything out of nothing.

It seems obvious common sense to me that we do not know these matters, and therefore that the extreme importance which they are sometimes given is potentially a serious problem.

We cannot know these matters, because God is the one thing that we must accept we cannot 'explain' - because to explain God is to try and explain what is first. Therefore we cannot reason from anything else about God; we cannot even safely reason; since to do so is to subject God to what may itself be a property of God.   

This should not be regarded as any kind of arbitrary constraint. There is no need or reason why we need to know where God came from, or exactly how he differs from us, or the precise scope of His powers and limitations, or the mechanism by which he created. To focus on these matters would be to miss the point of Christianity.

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My position is not so much a denial of omnipotence/ omniscience/ creation ex nihilo etc. - as it is a denial that we really know (or need to know) such things. My position is not to claim that God must have limitations on knowledge or power and that He actually created from pre-existent stuff - more that these things might well be so, and are not refuted by scripture or reason.

The restored gospel or Mormonism should not, therefore, be seen as a set of symmetrical counter-claims to mainstream classical theology regarding the Omni-God and creation from nothing; rather Mormonism is a re-centring of Christianity away from these knowledge claims.

A re-centring of Christianity such that such matters are no longer at or near the centre of the faith; and instead a different focus on God conceptualized in a common sense and person-like, and Fatherly, and human-relational way - as being sufficient, less hazardous, more helpful, more accessible, more honest basis for the Christian faith and life - closer to the model of scripture including the teachings of Jesus.

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