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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beyond Atheism: The Truth and Limits of the Atheist Critique

I got a chance to see Marcus Borg in person with well over 500 other people in Phoenix. There was not anything new in his lecture that I had not read in his books. But it was really awesome to be there with so many people.

The title of the lecture was Beyond Atheism: The Truth and Limits of the Atheist Critique. An important point, by calling it the Atheist Critique I think Borg is acknowledging legitimate points, and that there is an opportunity for Christianity to use this to grow. That's why with each point he addresses the truth of the critique first.

Borg starts with the claim that religion is intellectually indefensible. For Borg, the truth here is that the god of supernatural theism and the idea of an infallible, inerrant Scripture that is factually and absolutely true are, well, intellectually indefensible. There is no God reaching down into our world moving us like chess pieces. And that non-existent God did not write the Bible.

The limitation, is that these are not the only ways to understand God and the Bible. These are not the oldest ways to understand God or the Bible. This is easy with the Bible, Biblical literalism is a new creation. Sure, there are laws that the Israelites treated as absolute, except when they were revising them. But the mythologies were not a part of that, neither were the wisdom teachings, or the histories.

The supernatural theism is not so easily dismissed. Indeed, it parallels the idea of God as all things. Some neat phrases from tonight: God contains all things, but nothing contains God; God is isness without limits. From the Bible: Psalm 139:7-10 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”; Acts 17:28a “‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”; Colossians 1:17 "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

So, there is an ancient tension between those, perhaps motivated by the desire to praise God, who see God as a personified other, and those who see God as in all things and present in all things. As Borg put it tonight, like Brahman and Atman.

Alright, that will due me for tonight.

1 comment:

Josh Gentry said...

I think the major religions all have had a mystical tradition under their umbrella, and I am attracted to them. But it seems like its always a minority. I can only conclude that mysticism does not fulfill some human psychological need.