Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Theomorphic Creatures Understanding God

A response to David Hume's dialogues:

            In many ways, God is greater than human Reason as Philo alludes to and Demea firmly believes.[1] His ways are above our ways.[2] This being said, Reason can still be useful in attempting to have a better understanding of God. Reason is, in fact, a gift from God and a blessing. It is something that He has given to us so that we can understand the world around us. Yet, it is also a tool that humanity can use for His glory in attempting to know Him.
            Reducing God to anthropomorphic categories would be a mistake. Even though He may have man-like attributes, they are not bound by a human scale. If God truly made us and the world, he would have necessarily been here before us. This would not suggest that God is like us, but that we are like him. Humanity would need to be understood as theomorphic. The Abrahamic religions may be the most accurate in teaching that humanity has been created in the image of God and even after the Fall has retained that image in a broad sense.
            A good argument could be made leading from the God of Abraham to a belief in Christianity. Here there is a helpful understanding that Jesus Christ was not a superman, but a humble God. It is not as though He had started as a man and lifted himself up to godhood (like so many scientologists wish to believe). He began as God and, through limiting himself, became man.[3]
            One reason for Christ’s earthly ministry was to point towards God.[4] He did this by encouraging faith, but also through reason. He explained heavenly things to the Pharisees many times in a logical sense. Even though these things seem to be best-explained through metaphor, they were still told through reason forming valid premises and heading to a clear conclusion. This same strategy was used in the same way by Martin Luther and C. S. Lewis. It has even been helpful in the realm of the philosophers explaining their theories in Plato and Hume himself. Often, a better understanding of a situation or idea can truly be best explained through an analogy.
            Still, there should be a disclosure provided in dealing with human reason. As Berkeley said, it seems as if man kicks up dust and then tries to see. Human reason tends to come up with variant truths. In many cases it becomes imagination disguised in logic. Even though a belief in God or understanding of theology might be the best explanation of many things (in an Occam’s razor sort of fashion), many people use reason to simply confuse themselves or to avoid unwelcome results (like God’s judgment on their sin and a need to follow the Law). Whether this is the direst work of Satan or a side-effect of sin is up for debate, but either way it is sadly influential.
            An example that I seem to constantly run into is speaking with someone who has read the entire Bible, but has lost their faith. They had a drive and a yearning for the truth. They must have wanted to believe in God. But, in the end, their Reason had gotten in the way. Even if they acknowledged miracles and the reliability of the scripture; they still lost faith. How? It has seemed that even though much of the actual Scripture may be a fact in their worldview, they have had doubt towards God’s influence in their lives. They learned the case for Christ and believed it, but when they were tested and their faith was frail it dissipated.
Part of being able to reason effectively, especially in the matters of theology, is understanding (like Socrates) that we as humans can never truly know it all. Like Berkeley, we may not even be able to prove that anything outside of our own being is true and more than just ideas. There is a basic trust and faith that occurs so that we can be able to even begin to believe anything else. Is it so much harder to ask that a trust and faith in God cannot also be held? Truly, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”[5] Reason can be used to have a better understanding of God, but only because He is the one who has created Reason in the first place. We are not only able to trust in ourselves and trust in the world through our common sense, but also to trust in Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Hume, 434, 439.
[2] Is. 55:8-9.
[3] John 1; Phil. 2:6.
[4] John 14, 17.
[5] Prov. 9:10.

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