Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We each of us reach for beliefs beyond explanation: "Why Kaká has God on the substitutes' bench"

Matthew Syed in The Times on "Why Kaká has God on the substitutes' bench":
"Sports psychology was invented to help non-faith sportsmen to garner some of the psychic power of religion, and its potency - like that of religion - derives from the placebo effect... to instil beliefs that are not true but that create results (which are a different kind of truth). That is why sports psychologists are not technicians, but articulate and often charismatic advocates for their methods. I guess I am not the only one to have noticed their similarity to Christian evangelists.
It is not just sportsmen: none of us can get by without carefully constructed myths. We accentuate the positives, suppress the negatives, block out the traumas, create mini-narratives about our lives and loves that, on honest reflection, have little basis in reality; we do this not merely to win, but to survive. Reason without inhibition is a perilous thing, as anyone who has studied the lives of the philosophers will testify.
In that sense the religious apologists are right: we all make assumptions that cannot be justified, even mathematicians. The problem is that, for me at least, religion fails the test of minimalism - it attempts to explain the lesser (the world) in terms of the greater (God) and thereby provides no explanation at all.
Yet even as I dispute the beliefs of Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and other believers, I cannot help but acknowledge the unreason of my atheism. We each of us reach for beliefs beyond explanation."
What do you think?

Syed has some kind of Christian background, and (I think) his brother is a Christian. He was an Olympic Table Tennis player and is a columnist for The Times. 

(Perhaps the greatest belief beyond explanation and inhibition was the possibility that Kaká would sign for Manchester City - they reached and they landed with Craig Bellamy - which could be the making or the breaking of Bellamy... )


  1. Inetersting stuff, but not sure on your comment on Bellamy - he'll get bored in a years time and want to go somewhere else e=when a so called bigger club comes in for him. Not that I'm bitter you understand!!!

  2. Anyone who thinks they can win the champions league with Bellamy and Wayne Bridge is clearly bonkers/Mark Hughes.

    Also, don't we all try to explain the lesser in terms of the greater? How else can we explain the lesser? Only in our own little boxes...and John 1 knocks that idea to pieces.

  3. We *can* (and we do) all justify our claims (mathematicians, theologians, everyone). And it really is justification - but it's according to a logic internal to our own world of discourse. People's stories more or less make sense from inside them. Now if that was all we had to say then we'd be left with Syed's analysis.

    But, as Floyd points us to, Jesus is the Logic from beyond that invades our little story and demands an epistemological revolution. And because He shows up in the midst of our story, Syed's minimalist objection becomes ridiculous. It's a truth test that locks God out of His world. On the contrary, it's *because* the Word shows up in flesh that we make sense of both worlds, God's and ours.

    To use that ol' hackneyed illustration - Neo has no real explanation of his world at all until the bigger world of the Matrix shows up within his own.

  4. Glen,

    I take your point that revelation is a necessary prerequisite for knowledge. And that in particular, knowledge of Jesus, comes through God breaking in, as opposed to us figuring it out, building our own way out of the muddle. That was some of what you said wasn't it? I haven't mentioned that you said that Jesus should cause an epistemological revolution, he should. Amen. I couldn't agree more.

    I would like to know more about something though. Do you mean to say that there are two different kinds of logic. You have the 'logic internal to our own world of discourse' and the 'Jesus is the Logic from beyond'. Is that what you wanted to communicate?

    Are you aware that this sounds and indeed could be very similar to Karl Barth's view of the two kinds of Jesus? He had the 'Jesus of history' and the 'Jesus of faith'? Is that what you are advocating?

  5. Hi Tom,
    No-one hammered Bultmann and the liberal dualism (Jesus of history / Christ of faith) harder or more consistently than Barth. For Barth, shaping our doctrine of God and in fact all doctrine in Jesus of Nazareth - the one crucified under Pontius Pilate - was his all-consuming passion. I can't think of any theologian further from the charge of splitting the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith.

    Not sure where you're getting your info from.

    But I'm not really concerned to defend Barth. Any christian epistemology ought to take the noetic effects of sin seriously. The natural mind is not free from rebellion against God - in fact it is the very centre of it. (e.g. Col 1:21; Eph 4:17-19; 2 Cor 4:4).

    The world through its wisdom does not know God (1 Cor 1:21). The world's logic is entirely at odds with God's. God's logic is Christ crucified. The world's logic does and must find that to be foolishness. But God has destroyed the wisdom of the wise (1:20).

    That might frustrate the apologist's desire to build bridges from worldly 'rationality' towards Christ but I think such frustration is precisely God's design - 1 Cor 1:17-2:5.