Thursday, May 26, 2011

Our God is Greater!

Here's a helpful analysis of the problem of the god that people don't believe in, and which even Christians seem to believe sometimes... a god we might call OmniGod, or the OmniBeing on account of his bigness...
If they don’t believe in “God” we draw a deep breath and rummage around for some arguments to convince them of “God”: There’s order in the world, there must be an Orderer. Everything is caused, there must be a Cause at the top of the chain. There’s morality – there must be a Moral Lawgiver. You have a sense of something more, there must be Something more."we argue towards some kind of OmniBeing.
You know the omnis – maybe you learnt them in religious studies at school. God is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnivorous, ambidextrous, and so on. And if our arguments are clever enough, maybe they’ll agree to our philosophy. Hallelujah, they believe in the Omnibeing! This is surely a step in the right direction, we imagine."
The unbeliever goes away and reads the Gospel. And what do they find? A laughing, crying, shouting, serving, healing, loving Human Sacrifice. And the non-Christian says – “Wow, that stuff’s interesting. But it doesn’t sound to me like the Omnibeing.”
More about The image of the invisible omnibeing (by Glen Scrivener)

More on the God we know when we look to Christ at Steve Collier's blog:
Christ: Sun of Righteousness
And Dan Hames: Is the Bible a book about 'God'?


  1. This looks like a false choice. Either A or B, when in reality C exists (gospel and natural theology) and is much more biblical. And in actual fact this is just Karl Barth's old argument that use of natural theology leads to a God of the philosophers. Its from CD 1 and 2.

    Glen is right to want to avoid omnigod, but he needs to rethink his logic. The problem is the heart, not natural theology. He gets to the right destination, but his argument is very poorly nuanced.

  2. Not just Barth, Luther and Calvin too. Might need more nuance but it is what so many I meet believe, Christians whose god is omni scary god lurking behind Jesus. Non-Christians who've dismissed that.
    Even beginning to show how we got there helps.... and how our starting point matters a lot.

  3. I think it can be framed as a false choice... but for many it seems that their god is not one known first in Christ, Barthian or not, it's an important issue. Lord or Lord who is Lover, Omnigod or the Triune God introduced by Christ is an important distinction.

    I'm not sure it's about natural theology or not, creation has lots to help us with and much to say, but isn't enough for saving faith, which isn't a Barthian thing - it's Calvin vs. the Scholastics.

  4. Faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone! Beware: there's a semi-pelagianism in revelation just as in salvation. There is no "third way" for the evangelical to tread - no matter how nuanced.

    Glory to Jesus!

  5. I literally have no idea what either of you are trying to communicate.

    Let me try to call it as I see it. Correct me if I get this wrong.

    Glen doesn't want any natural theology because he thinks it leads to a false idea of God. And he thinks it compromises faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone. He also thinks that natural theology with special revelation is a semi-pelagian view of revelation.

    I think that Glen's argument is unsound. And commits some serious errors in thinking: a false choice between either natural theology or orthodoxy. Another option would be natural theology with faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone.

    Bish thinks that it is also a historical discussion and that he meets people who believe that God is a bit odd, he is unsure if this is because of natural theology or not.

    Is that where we are?

  6. For the sake of clarity Tom, what do you think, cos other than that you think we're barking or apparently Barthian, I'm not sure! To borrow your words, I literally have no idea what you're trying to communicate either...

    Perhaps you can clarify:

    1. What do you actually mean by natural theolgy?

    2. How do you propose it be used?

    3. What do you think is the starting point for someone to believe in God, in an 'ideal' situation? (granted everyone in practice comes in by all kinds of ways for all kinds of odd reasons...)

  7. I think Tom, I'm not trying to make comment on natural theology or whatever, I'm more saying: If people want to know God looking at Jesus would be a good idea, because
    a) Jesus is the one who makes God known and
    b) because in general when you start elsewhere it doesn't necessarily get you very far... ok you can build a plausibility from all kinds of other sources for some kind of 'god'. And I'm not saying that reason and the world and a million other things can't be helpful, but when we start there and move to Jesus it all comes as a bit of a surprise since Jesus doesn't tend to look like the kind of god we had led people to expect...

    But I still don't know
    1. What you mean by natural theology...
    2. How you'd use that...
    3. What's wrong with talking about Jesus...


  8. My quick answers will get me into trouble. Here goes.

    First lot of Qu's
    1. Natural theology is the practice of theology using (not exclusively) general revelation (human nature, relationships, desire, arguments, experiences) - EVERYTHING outside of Sin, and special revelation (BIBLE and Jesus). Although there are still some ways of doing natural theology on Jesus without starting with scripture, for example Acts 17.

    2. Carefully, humbly, without any kind of pride of man and always leading into special revelation and theology proper.

    3. Ideal would be the opposite response to that described in John 3 and Romans 1. Or a direct and clear response to the whole gospel, preached to the whole human person (mind, will, emotions, body, social environment, etc)

    Second Qu's

    1. See 1. above
    2. See 1. above
    3. This is what I want to do. I just want to do it with people in a more serious way, that treats them more seriously, and takes their questions and needs more seriously.

    Hope that helps....

  9. Sorry for having repeated my questions, was trying to think myself clearer... #fail probably.

    I'm not sure we're really that far apart. I agree we need to treat others with seriousness and respect and taking their questions seriously... I'm not sure that's being argued against.

    I suppose what's being argued is that when it comes to questions about God it's better to advance to Jesus sooner rather than later? And that we can get ourselves in a muddle if we take for granted a definition of general god-ness from anywhere other than the gospel...

    So, someone says "I don't believe in god" - I definitely want to enquire as to why and what the find too much to believe or too unpleasant to believe... but I'm aware that almost certainly they disbelieve in a god who isn't the god I believe in. Probably they disbelieve in Glen's Omnibeing... and so as well as engaging their questions and whole person seriously, I'm seeking an opportunity to say, Jesus introduces a god who is very different.

    That said, not all that many conversations begin with "I don't believe in god"...