Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Are religious beliefs childlike and simplistic?

People sometimes consider reason and rationality to be overall a more 'advanced' characteristic than emotion. When writers imagine future civilizations, they often imagine them to be rational, calm, not emotional, very, very intelligent, and so on (based on my anecdotal experience with science fiction). Belief in a Deistic God, who has no feelings, who is a supreme intelligence that created the universe, is often considered more 'advanced' in some ways than believing in 'a loving Father in heaven'. Consider this quote by Albert Einstein:

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."

Compare that with a description of God in the Christian Bible (Luke 15):

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

Isn't it obvious that Albert Einstein had a much more mature, well thought out, intelligent belief in God in this aspect?

How might a believer account for some people seeing things that way?

According to the Bible, our intellectual reason wasn't made in God's image. Isaiah 55:8 says 'my thoughts are not your thoughts' (see also Romans 11:34). So we have nothing in common with God in terms of our intellectual reason. But we do have something in common with God when it comes to our personality, love, good emotions generally, practical reason, free will and moral sense, because those things *were* made in God's image (picture of this relationship).

So no wonder our intellectual reason has an awkward, uncomfortable relationship with love, emotions more generally, and the world of 'doing and choosing'. It's not made in God's image, so it relates to the stuff that *was* made in God's image in a generally problematic way.

When we prioritise reason we naturally tend to make our ideal of a person, or our ideal of an advanced alien civilization into cold, calm, calculating persons. Just like when we prioritise reason we make our idea of God into a cold, calm, collected, maybe amoral or without-feeling God (Deism).

The truth is that the God in the Father passage above is actually what God is like. We are pushed away from this ideal when we imagine intellectual reason, which isn't made in the image of God, to be something that God has like *we* do. But God's reasoning is actually a kind of reasoning more like our emotion, if that were possible (actually, we can't even imagine what it is like to have intellectual thoughts like God's intellectual thoughts, because our intellectual faculty wasn't made in His image so we don't have His version of it).

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