Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, September 08, 2014

With God, The World is Less Known but More Knowable

Kyle Cupp has a new blog over at Patheos, where he's had some interesting posts going up. One that I've been chewing over for the last week is entitled God Is Not An Explanation, and in it Kyle pushes back on the idea that a theistic universe is a more explicable one.
[I]t troubles me that I cannot explain God. I want, for example, to be able to give myself a rational explanation for why a loving God would reveal matters of eternal life and death through obscure and ambiguous speech, signs, and texts. I can’t. I throw my hands in the air, and not as a prayerful gesture. Put aside the problem of evil; the very idea of the bible vexes me! Has there been a book that’s received as many varying and conflicting interpretations as the bible? Another holy text, maybe? If God is the ultimate author of Sacred Scripture, he sure didn’t seem to be going for clarity.

Along with atheists, I actually think the universe makes more sense without God. A godless world, if it is a finite material world, is a world that can in theory be explained. Maybe. If God exists, however, then creation is insolubly problematic. Fundamentally so. You could say mysterious if my phrasing sounds too heterodox.
I'm not clear whether I disagree with Kyle here or not. There's a sense in which a strictly material world would make more sense, but only because there would simply be less to know. Picture, if you will, that it was revealed to you that Hamlet really had been written by an infinite number of monkeys randomly hitting the keys of typewriters. In a sense, this would instantly clear up all the mysteries regarding what Hamlet is about and what its message is. It would the not be about anything and it would have no message. Any meaning we chose to find in a randomly generated Hamlet script would be entirely of our own creation, and so in a sense it really wouldn't matter what we decided it meant.

Similarly, if God does not exist and the universe is strictly material, a lot of questions that people have struggled with over the centuries get very simple answers: What does it all mean? Nothing. Why do we exist? No reason. What is our purpose? There is no such thing.

In one sense, this is all very explicable. In another, it is no explanation at all.

No matter how simple the monkey explanation of Hamlet is, it's profoundly unsatisfying as an explanation because Hamlet seems like it means something. Similarly, it morality seems to me like it means something. The afterlife seems like it means something. The absolute seems like it means something. Saying, "Nope, none of that exists," does certainly close off a lot of questions, but it doesn't necessarily seem to me like it does so in a way that suits the evidence -- the evidence being our sense of meaning, or morality, of the divine.

Now, I'm not sure that Kyle and I really disagree here, but I think it's worth being clear that while God is not a pat explanation in, God is indeed the answer to a great deal, even if in ways that leave us with questions because He is beyond our capacity to fully understand.

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