Friday, August 24, 2012

God Doesn't Exist




No really he doesn't. At least not by my definition of exist. Think of it this way. To exist is to stand (sistere) out from something (ex).* Existence is only possible within a relationship to something greater. All things that exist do so within a field of being that is larger than themselves. So the corn exists within the field, the field exists within the country, the country exists within the planet, which exists within the galaxy, etc, until we arrive at the expanding field of time and space that is our universe beyond the edge of which is what? A multiverse, other dimensions? And what do they exist in?  Nothing that can be said to exist can be thought of as existing without relating it to something greater than it.


Corn, in a field
Now there is no reason why there shouldn't be an infinite of dimensions or even a circular chain of existence, but this would not be a Christian cosmology. For in Christian cosmology it is God (in whom we live and move and have our being - Acts 17:28) in relationship to whom everything else exists. Which is why I have a great deal of sympathy with the minority panentheism view (all-in-God-ism) where the universe is understood to be inside God. After all it is only out of God's being that anything at all exists so if we are not inside God it is hard to imagine where we could be.

God doesn't exist, in that there is nothing in which God has God's being other God's-self. The universe and all that is in it exists only in that it is distinguishable from God and yet stands in relationship to God. God, whose name is revealed as YHWH (I am what I am, I will be what I will be) does not exist but simply IS. There is no other thing or person of which this can be said.

Let me know what you think :-)

*C.T. Oden, Classic Christianity, p35

16 comments:

  1. I like. Was it Tillich that said anyone who said God exists was an atheist? I'm actually chatting with a mate on this right now, and he thinks its possibility that a currently unknown part of nature could be that"ground of all being" or necessary entity. I can't imagine how this could be so, can you?

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  2. I think you've made up your own definition of "exist".

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  3. I think you've made up your own definition of "exist".

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  4. Hi Beau, I think you missed the footnote!

    Beau, are you the Beau I know, or another one?

    Either way, welcome to the blog!

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    1. Thanks, I'll correct myself based on the footnote:

      C.T. Oden made up his own definition of "exist".

      There is no "from something" inherent in the Latin "ex". In fact, such an addition would make no sense in most Latin uses of "existo".

      Sorry, Jonathan, I don't think I'm the Beau you know - but nice to meet you!

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    2. Hi Beau, I am sadly not much of a linguist, and my latin very rusty, but I think it is a fair etymological definition if not current usage, of course etymology is a very unreliable guide to meaning,

      http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/exist

      "out" necessarily infers out from or out of.

      Either way, I was defining the word in a certain way for the sake of making a cosmological point. And of course I wanted to surprise people with the assertion that "God doesn't exist" knowing full well that is not what most people would understand by the sentence! And it worked because you read the post. And it is still correct that in Christian thought, God doesn't "exist" in the same way anything else does.

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  5. Yes, it did work! I read the post!

    And though I still think you and Oden are inferring more than is logical from the little prefix "ex" (the wiki site has nothing to support you on this point), it's not really worth an argument, is it? You're just having a little fun with word-play, after all.

    I'll only add that God "doesn't exist" on many levels. If he created the universe, he did it so brilliantly, you can't even tell it had a creator. All the natural forces that we used to ascribe to him (the weather, the volcanoes, the movements of the spheres, the breath of life) are progressively revealing completely naturalistic explanations to science.

    In fact, using your etymology, I could make the word argument that God DOES exist: he stands so far "out from" or "out of" the universe, he's completely undetectable. His invisibility suggests that he ex - ists.

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  6. Hi Beau,

    You are right that the "God of the gaps" you believe in has got a lot smaller, although for those inclined to worship him there are still more than a few gaps left. But that is not the Christian God, who like you say is well hidden

    "Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel." - Isaiah 45-15

    No, the Christian God is the God of beauty, truth and goodness none of which fall within the domain of the natural sciences to explain. In fact as the sciences explore the universe we find there is more beauty, truth and goodness in it that we could have imagined and so this God seems to get bigger, rather than shrink.

    And rather than stand outside of the universe, the Christian God quite literally stood in it in the person of Jesus Christ. Who came so that God does not have to be a far off unknowable concept, but so that you can know him personally and without shame.

    Of course, that is only what Christians believe and doesn't necessarily have any claim on you. But if you would like to know this God yourself, just let me know and I'll arrange an introduction.

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  7. Thank you Jonathan,

    I don't actually believe in a "God of the gaps" or any God to speak of (I guess you figured that out).

    I've already had the "introduction to God." Tried it for years, but he never showed up. I confess that I haven't tried Allah, Ganesha, or Buddha as of yet; but somehow I think they'll remain just as hidden.

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  8. If there is no goodness, truth or beauty in your life, then you are living in a world without God, if there is some then maybe you've just been looking for the wrong thing when you've been trying to look for God. The problem with God is that he has a way of being there all along without us noticing - which can be embarrassing when we finally do spot him.

    OTOH I commiserate with you that your experience of Christianity has thus far been disappointing and unsatisfactory - believe it or not, I do know the feeling.

    pax vobiscum

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  9. Jonathan

    There is a wealth of goodness, truth, and beauty in my life. I have loving family, caring friends, and a career that I enjoy. Life is never perfect for anyone, of course. I have experienced the natural sorrows of the world: death of loved ones, disappointments, and the unavoidable cruelty apparent in the world around, often caused by humans.

    But I have personally lead a much happier life since discarding all the unhealthy Christian notions that used to plague me: death as the desert of sin, blood sacrifices, hell for unbelievers, and the constant use of unrequitable guilt by religious hucksters to motivate the faithful.

    I find that I don't need eternity to feel happiness. I am content with the moments I have, with the present, and with the people that surround me.

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  10. Sounds like you have a lot to be thankful for and have discovered the joy of the biblical virtue of contentment with your lot, although it is of course easier to be content with your lot when you have quite a lot! And those things which used to plague you sound more like the work of the devil than of God. Just a shame you threw the baby out with the bath water.

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    1. "it is of course easier to be content with your lot when you have quite a lot!"

      That's true. There is a lot of poverty and suffering in the world, and we should do everything we can to alleviate it.

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    2. "And those things which used to plague you sound more like the work of the devil than of God."

      If your christianity is biblical christianity, you'll find that it is God (not Satan) that casts souls into hell, according to scripture:

      Luke 12:5, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelations 1:18

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  11. Beau, I find it strange to have you quoting prooftexts at me, but if as I suspect you are a sensitive and intelligent person then I am not surprised you have rejected a reactionary and simplistic Christianity. It is just a shame to have rejected Christianity wholesale - it is a much wider faith than that represented by American Fundamentalism.

    None of the scriptures you have quoted say that God sends people to hell, Luke 12:5 says that someone (some scholars think the devil, other God) has the power to throw into Gehenna (Matt 10:28 reveals the implication is destruction, not perpetually torture), 2 Peter 2:4 mentions God condemning angels (not people) to Tartarus, and Rev 1:18 says that Jesus has the keys to Hades (the world of the dead, equ. to Hebrew Sheol - the grave) and this is indicative of his triumph over death and his ability to release humanity from death through his resurrection. In none of these text will you find validation of the idea of a fiery hell populated by demons running around torturing for eternity people who didn't say the sinners prayer - that is a relatively modern invention.

    Stringing together texts to make a point wholly alien from the minds of the inspired authors is modernistic American fundamentalism at its best (worst) but this is not how Christians through the ages have read the scriptures.

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