Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Enlightenment Deism & The Church Fathers

For history I've had to read some of the advocates of Enlightenment Deism, and I've had to say that they make the most reasonable case. I've been a Deist before (with a kind of Christian tinge of course) but I was thinking about it today and how it fit with Ancient Christianity.

Deism is the belief in one God who is revealed by reason, experience, and nature. Not scripture. After nightmarish exegetical fights with Protestants and Catholics alike I ended up realizing how problematic Scripture was with it's multiplicity of interpretation, ambiguities and contradictions (mostly numerology and historically, as well after fighting about it so much I think maybe Rom 4:4 and James 2:24 are a contradition in a matter of faith and morals). It also was funny to me the other day when I was talking with Lance a friend and theology student who brought up some issue with the divinity of Christ and the gospels and I said "ya some days I trust Church Tradition more than Scripture" (I truly am Catholic I guess) and we both laughed.

Traditional Theology after Nicea said that God was understood two ways. The ousia and kergyma (my greek is terrible) but it was explained to me that the character of God is explained through his kergyma or persons and those are his actions which we understand him by The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. BUT they also taught (as Plato and others did) that God's essence was a mystery, and unknowable, his ousia was incomprehensible. Many Eastern Theologians said that the best way to express the essence of God was silence.

St. Gregory of Nyssa said of Moses' journey that God was most present in absolute Darkness on Mount Sinai. St. Augustine said “We can know what God is not, but we cannot know what he is” (On the Trinity). Likewise St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "In this life what God is is unknown to us by the revelation of grace; and so we are joined to him as to something unknown." (Summa Theologica). "No single thing of all that is created has or ever will have even the slightest communion with the supreme nature or nearness to it" - Gregory Palamas.

So I'm thinking that we've become tricked into thinking that we some how perfectly understand God and can say what he thinks or his opinion from everything to who he would vote for, to what he thinks about birth control.

I'm starting to think that he is much more incomprehensible than I even imagined. I also heard this quote from a desert father "The sin of humanity is but a fistful of sand thrown into the ocean of God's grace". I always thought I was just hopefully unregenerate, but I'm starting to think that our own egotism makes us think God is really sitting there with a checklist to write down our actions everyday. I think that kind of just gives meaning to people rather than it being logical. So maybe Enlightenment Deism and Ancient Christianity are closer than I thought.

Counter-Arguments against my post:
Presbyterians will say: "you are an unregenerate sinner who wants to live in sin and thus are trying to advocate this heresy which you were probably taught in that false Church by Satan himself"
Baptists: "Stop thinking! all thinking is vain philosophy, read your bible!"
Anglicans: "I agree"
Catholics: "who are the Church fathers?"

Intelligent Conservative Theologians: "Hebrews 1 says that Christ is the exact image of God, he has given us an interpretable revelation which says things which are at odds with your quotes, and you probably just quote farmed those things and haven't read them in context"

1 comment:

  1. Always provocative Andrew.

    "I'm starting to think that he is much more incomprehensible than I even imagined."

    Nice one!

    You know, I think we sometimes confuse understanding with comprehension. God is both incomprhensible and understandable. The difficulty is knowing when we've said more than he's said about himself.

    "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29).