Creationist Wisdom #901: God Transcends Logic

This one is a column, but we’ll add it to our letter-to-the-editor collection. It appears in the Journal Review of Crawfordsville, Indiana. They have a comments feature, but there aren’t any comments yet. Their headline is The God we don’t understand .

Unless the writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today’s column was written by Rev. William E. Pike. We’re told he “has pastored the United Methodist congregations in New Market and Waveland since 2011.” We’ll give you some excerpts from his column, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Here we go!

I recently had reason to recall a statement by the great bishop and theologian, Augustine of Hippo, whose writings 16 centuries ago defined much of how Christians have understood the finer points of their faith ever since. In a sermon Augustine once said: “If we are speaking of God, why be surprised if you do not understand? If you could understand, it would not be God.”

We tried — without success — to find some verification of that quote. The reason we tried is that we once wrote a post praising Augustine’s understanding of things — see St. Augustine on Creationism. Anyway, let’s go on with the rev’s column. He says:

The point Augustine was making was this: if you don’t understand the who, why, and what that has to do with God, don’t worry. If you did understand, then it wouldn’t be God anyhow.

We’re not supposed to understand? Okay. Then he tells us:

I’ve met plenty of people over the years who have told me, “I would believe in God if his existence was proven to me. Until then, I have no reason to believe.” On the face of it, an argument like that makes sense in our modern world, ruled as it is by science and reason. However, imagine for a moment a God you could prove. What sort of God would that be? Who wants to believe in a God they can explain on a piece of paper like the Pythagorean Theorem?

It could be said that God – the God of the Bible – can’t be proven, by his very nature. Why? Because God transcends science. God transcends mathematics. God transcends logic. Therefore, we can’t use science, math, or logic to explain God. If we could, it would mean we weren’t really talking about God.

Yeah — phooey on understanding! The rev continues:

Scripture tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” In our modern world those who argue against God are often smart and well-educated people. But in reality, the Bible tells us, they are simply fools. [Right!] As a mere human being, so fragile, so fleeting, it can be nothing but foolish to say for certain, “There is no God.” God, by definition, is above and beyond all we can know or understand. Such a being can only be understood through faith, and without faith, we have nothing but ourselves.

This is brilliant stuff! And now we come to the end:

Scripture goes on to say, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” When he looks down at us, when he looks down at you, what does he see? Let’s not be fools. There is a God who reigns, and he can’t be proven, or even fully understood. The good news is, he doesn’t have to be. He loves us anyway.

That was truly inspirational. Thanks, rev!

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16 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #901: God Transcends Logic

  1. OK Rev Bill, here’s the thing. I don’t understand everything about quantum physics. But I’m interested in it because I’m pretty sure that if I study enough I could understand a lot more about it. You claim I can’t understand your favorite god, no matter how much I try. Since you tell me it’s pointless to try, fine, I give up, and I’ll ignore your favorite god. That will give me more time to study quantum physics.

  2. There is nothing against evolution or environmental understanding or deep time or for design. Perhaps it is against arguments from design!

  3. God transcends logic. Well, he was right there! To believe you have to suspend logic and ever other mental faculty provided by their god.

    Any why would Augustine be an authority we should listen to. Is it because he got so much else right? Or just because he wrote about it so we could read it later. (The church actively scrubbed books it did not approve of and copied books they did, so Augustine got a boost that way, even though much of what he wrote is silliness. This is not surprising as Christian apologists often quote Aristotle regarding his concept of a primer mover, even though Aristotle recognized almost a dozen of such things and used that as a defense of polytheism! Doesn’t matter, say the slightest thing the churches approve of and they will pluck it out of context with a bravura “Voila!”

  4. TomS is right — nothing in the rev’s letter is about creationism or the like, just an exhortation to encourage people to believe in God, even though there is no way to know there is a God.

    In a sense, the rev is admitting that blind faith is totally illogical, but at least he’s not demanding that we accept the idea of a six-day creation 6,000 years ago, followed shortly by an earth-encompassing Flood that only Noah and his family survived. I go along with him on the idea that religious faith is totally illogical.

  5. Whenever I try to understand the christian god that plays such an important role in modern culture, and such contemplation is rare, I quickly give up. Not only is that god hugely genocidal in the old testament, he/she/it seems to tolerate great evil, including evil perpetrated by his/her/its clergy. And, then there’s that tripartite split personality… Like all xians, rev gives too much authority to ancients.

  6. @Steve Ruis – “…with a bravura “Voila!””

    Or, more likely in the U.S. Bible Belt, “Wala!”

    The skin crawls.

  7. Or, more likely in the U.S. Bible Belt, “Wala!”

    OMG, I worked with a guy who said, “Wala!” all the effing time! Drove me nuts, and aided and abetted by the guy who said, “mute” instead of “moot” and the statistician who could only say “satistics.”

    I tell you, life can be difficult when you’re as tolerant as me!

  8. For a moment there, the Rev had me right in the palm of his hand. Here was someone who understood the mystery, who didn’t mind if I ‘didn’t get it’. A soothing, calming, reassuring voice who assures us that it’s okay to be uncertain, to have doubt, to wonder about the who/why in the face of the daily grind. And then… and then he throws it all out the window by going back to ‘old faithful’, that perpetual source of an answer for everything, the scriptures.

    Surely there is nothing that can’t be proven or disproven if we can just find the right sentence in the scriptures. Life must be such a challenge for a missionary in Crawfordsville. The poor, the dispossessed, those whose very existence is a daily challenge. But the Rev can call on the scriptures to cheer them up, life them from poverty and fill their bellies with food. Good news in Crawfordsville.

  9. “Let’s not be fools. There is a God who reigns, and he can’t be proven, or even fully understood”

    Great oxymoron: we don’t know if god exists because his/its existence is unprovable, but we know that god reigns.

    The good rev. should read L. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, which ends: “Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.”

  10. Yes, we should only choose to “believe” in the illogical and untestable because … something?

    There seems to be a missing step in the reverend’s illogic, no doubt that only happened by “design”.

  11. The rev might not be addressing creationism per se, but that hasn’t stopped those vultures hijacking science, math, and “logic” when their faith alone fails to be persuasive. They know full bloody well that faith is fragile, and that anyone less than a hardcore fundy can easily lose it.

    No, the rev is just another charlatan pretending to a knowledge he can’t demonstrate. It’s just as disingenuous to come on all fire-and-brimstone, as it is to end on kitsch, cuddly platitudes about “God loves us anyway.” Both kinds of preacher ultimately resort to cheap scare tactics about doubting “fools” to frighten the impressionable into submission.

  12. Pike: “God, by definition, is above and beyond all we can know or understand.”

    “Could God create a stone so heavy that even He could not lift it?”

    Could God coin a word that even He could not define?

    Could God write a joke that even He didn’t get?

  13. Here’s a good comment from the Journal Review‘s OP:

    Capt Stormfield
    Sep 15, 2018 7:03pm

    Left unexplored in the first few paragraphs are some obvious questions: If it is unsatisfying to believe in a God whose existence is provable, where does this leave all the characters in the Bible that are said to have experienced him firsthand? . . . . . Would a heaven be unfulfilling to Christians, since they would then have definitive proof of their God?

  14. “…our modern world, ruled as it is by science and reason.”

    If anything, our world is “ruled” by irrational thought and behaviour, superstition, and muddle-headed faith of the kind Silly Billy is spruiking.

    Science and reason are perceived by their opponents to be predominant because they so clearly produce more effective results than the alternatives theists offer.

  15. In one sense, convinced atheists should rejoice. This represents the final retreat, the ultimate concession. The Rev is a classic theist agnostic, one who believes, while conceding that it’s impossible to know. Accordingly, he has simply quit the field of reason altogether, and here is plainly saying as much.

    It was never a popular position, despite being impervious to refutation. Most theists of the Abrahamic tradition held that it was very much possible to know God; that He is comprehensible, His attributes understandable, His will intelligible, His purposes open to rational analysis. Not so, says the Rev.

    We can leave the Rev to his fortress of faith, I think. If he can shut his mind down to this extent, he will have pain enough to bear.

  16. [Dave Luckett:] “The Rev is a classic theist agnostic, one who believes, while conceding that it’s impossible to know […]
    We can leave the Rev to his fortress of faith, I think. If he can shut his mind down to this extent, he will have pain enough to bear”

    Perhaps someone should talk to him about the Clergy Project. He would find support to become an agnostic atheist. Another small step in the good direction 😉