Friday, October 14, 2011

DEBATES ON REALITY OF GOD...December 15, 2010..note to Edward Fudge

Hi Edward. (Edward's essay is at the end.) I've taken time to listen to some of McGrath's presentations and debates. Here is one session with Dawkins.  I'm reminded of our heritage's (Church of Christ) love of debate and  how these debates that McGrath has with atheists have  viewers who  may always  'see' their man win. Surely debate has its place somewhere and can potentially lead one to different conclusions than they already had. I am an example of a person who has reached  very different conclusions, especially about the nature and knowledge possible of God,  than I once held with strong emotion and average intelligence. Such a change is probably rightly called conversion.  Saul of Tarsus was a person whose whole view of himself and others changed but I doubt it would ever have happened by his hearing a debate between  a Christian and a Hebrew. I guess I am saying that debates, even by strong  intellects like McGrath , are not likely to determine much about the future of religion and  how people come to view and describe God or the lack of God in the universe. *(A book just out superbly making the case for the reality of God.)

Dr. Allister McGrath
I'm sure those attending his lecture  in Houston were comforted and encouraged by what he said, if for no other reason because it supports what they feel has a need of being supported. I think that a lot of what is going on in orthodox Christianity and Conservative  or Evangelical Christianity, as I understand it, is  somewhat out of a desperate desire and attempt to 'return' to a former day in religion that seems to be continually slipping away. Just as the faith of such sincere people did not really  initially come by  intellectual pursuits of what is 'around us'(next paragraph) neither will the new foundations, a need is being felt for, come from that source.  I see McGrath is still championing C.S. Lewis and it sounds like his approach to spiritual matters is  much in that line.  I realize that is not how you likely view what is going on even with meetings such as this one you describe.

I think the book title you mention gives away that McGrath is championing the human  'intellect' as the avenue by which humans  primarily come to faith and that he uses  'intellect' and 'mind' pretty much interchangeably.  In the video I am watching he describes that he is trying to find out as a religious endeavor 'what makes more sense of the things around us and of our lives.'  Unintentionally this can become a very materialistic approach to the subject of God and  religion.  I hear both men being strong materialists.  He then uses the phrase 'natural order' as synonymous with the 'the things around us and our lives.'

Isn't it  fascinating to watch these English  intellectuals right in each others face, and with hardly any emotion, giving their contrary arguments without a flinch?  It is entertaining and amazing to most any American.   We Americans are slightly different in that way. This seems to be a nearly totally  'intellectual' matter to them both. Hawkins, I think,  gives McGrath a real opening when he charges  that McGrath probably wants to use God also to explain his 'internal world of feelings etc.",and not just ' the things around us.'   Hawkins is likely suggesting that he does not have any interest in or need for that 'internal' world as a pure scientist. If McGrath shared my understanding he would fully accept that charge and suggest that is indeed the 'place'  where  he gets his  'likelihood' of God. And he could challenge Hawkins as behaving as if he has no such world. One's reality of an inner world shows the moment they express any sincere emotion , even if it is that of 'adoring'  or 'defending' a loved one. They are both on guard to not 'show' their possible and understandable anger,also a reality of their inner world,  with each other.

Dr. Richard Dawkins
So my concern about this approach would apply to both of these debaters. They are looking for God in only part of the human experience, the one that has captivated  our Western culture for at least 300 years; that is the outer materialistic world.   They are both looking at the 'world on the outside' as if it were the whole and for sure the most important experience that a human has with God. This I think is the error of our day and  culture that both the  atheistic scientist and the typical orthodox theologian  fall into.  It is only, to me, by taking the whole psyche... intellect, emotion and and the images and living symbols that have welled up in humans throughout recorded history that what can  rightfully  be called God might  be ascertained (to some limited extent).

Of course I, as I'm sure these debaters, agree that human intellect is so very essential in sorting out any  God experience but I think I may see its use differently than either of them. I hear them both assuming that it is through the correct and logical use of the intellect onto 'the world around us' that we can either  prove or disprove the likelihood or unlikelihood of God. That is not how I see a successful  search of  God happening. I see that as where the intellect needs to come in its fullness to deal with, question, stand against, ask questions, holding its own with the content that comes to us not from the outside world but from the inner world.  I am a great supporter of using the intellect on the contents of the outside world which  science has well demonstrated  its success and success and superiority  over any traditional or organized religion. All new learning  about the outside world and  the subatomic world(McGrath is a molecular scientist)  in the past 300 years, which is surely mind boggling to atheist and believer alike, has been done by science without the need of any assumption of  God or belief in  any sacred realm. This is just the objective intellectually perceived demonstrated fact of the 'things around us.'. For the believer to not face and accept that  implies a willingness to value  wishful thinking and  emotional need over ones own God given intellect. To be consistent such a person  should not use most  of the benefits of science which have been accomplished by 'atheistic scientists.' Science does not work better or discover more in the hands of a self described  formal 'believer.'   That is not how it works. And this is not the place to discover more about the nature of God. Science is surely an amazing reality that the believer could be grateful for and can certainly accept as a gift of God. Also I think that  unbiased science can stimulate, as many other human endeavors,  the Collective Unconscious and so indirectly may become a path to some  'knowledge of  the nature of God.' It was through the internal activity of the Collective Unconsous as it brought forth 'visions and dreams' that the changes I came to have in the religious/spiritual realm are founded. I think that is the source of all our individual and collective  spiritual breakthroughs.

Also Hawkins explicitly says he could see the  rational in 'a god' who was also evolving as everything else in nature is seen to be doing. But McGrath I think sees no value for mutual learning in that 'blink' for he no doubt sees himself as  representing and actually defending only an 'orthodox god.'  I think time and reality show that  any  'orthodox god' is one well under the intellectual control of the human who believes in that god and is at most only a limited aspect of the ultimate God. Christianity has all it needs in scripture, parts of its own tradition and the life of Christ to not be limited to any  'god of orthodoxy' that  formal historic Christianity has espoused. But if it refuses to depart in discussion with others that rigid orthodox view of God, then even when the other person begins to 'blink' some sign of belief,  the conversation can go no further or any new learning take place.  Thus, I'm saddened, the debate is likely only used to prop up previously held opinion on both sides.  .... Just like our COC debates of old, only fancier environments,  more intimidating vocabulary and  higher academic degrees.

The Collective Unconscious is well demonstrated, and Jung's kind of scientifically based work of 'seeing' the unseen psyche as an objective reality that brings forth images and symbols into human consciousness has been the primary contributing learning activity, by the fact that similar images and symbols come forth into human consciousness in all the various cultures, religions and times. Prominent  places this happens is in ancient religious texts, alchemy texts, secular literature, the arts, cultural and religious mythologies, active imagination, our daily barely noticed inner life, intuitions and slips of the tongue and of course the nightly dream. This is where the intellect needs to be applied to discover  whatever there is to be found about the unseen realm and  what it reveals about what can appropriately, meaningfully and humbly  be called God. This is also where the fundamental symbolism of all established religious traditions has actually originated and evolved from.

I again refer to Paul. His , most likely authentic, personal explanations of entering the ' third heaven and hearing what he cannot repeat' ,and even what others said of his conversion(Acts) clearly imply that he was affected by 'internal forces and visions not seen by others' , not by debate of what was going on or was  the 'most reasonable explanation'  of the 'world about him.'  When the intellect is used to look for and to engage that  inner part of human  reality then it can lead to genuine human discoveries of God. And the  possibility  arises of those inner trans-personal realities affecting post modern man and woman in ways that would sometimes produce 'conversions' that are equally as impressive as that of Paul.  These now, with the help of Jungian type work, can be conversions that the intellect can 'understand'  the 'how' of but still not the 'why'.  I feel blessed to have some way of  understanding  the 'how' of my experiences of this kind but  I still have little if any  explanation for the 'Why?'   But until the advent of  depth psychology, especially that of Jung, the 'How' was totally unknown for modern people also. Such happenings were generally perceived and described as some kind of 'supernatural invasion' of the human psyche from an assumed God who stands outside of nature and the created world. Depth psychology images God as being , in addition to a transcendent reality, that which is an aspect of the internal psychology of every human. Truly, a God 'in whom we live and move and have our very being.' Hypothesizing a Collective Unconscious that acts from and within us explains the nature of  religious experience without preventing it from being  strongly authoritative and numinous. I would not expect such  'glimpses of God' to likely come from the intellectual banter  I hear from these brilliant men, simply because they are not looking to and using their intellectual powers on the material available  that would actually reveal something about the  living Sacred.  Blessings, Jim

P.S. Here is an interview between Dawkins and a priest. The priest, who is also a scientist, presents a most humble and honest statement of his belief in orthodox Christianity. He seems to even understand and confess the human weakness and limits of that faith. It is clear that the unbeliever Dawkins is also impressed by what he is hearing. I think present day orthodox 'believers'  and  self defined 'a-thiests' might learn much from this faithful priest. It shows the potential of how honest and open versions of  'a-theism' and 'orthodox Christianity' might experience transcendence of each others limitations and an unexpected but greatly needed  union of opposites in our post-modern era.

Jim Hibbett

*To see a very different yet devastating attack on Dawkins' 'no God' world view I can recommend a new book  The Individuation Of God by Peter B. Todd.  I'd prefer he not mention Dawkins so much. For his work easily stands alone as a case for the reality of the Sacred regardless of Dawkins'  position. Compared to McGrath I see Todd making a spiritual case rather than falling for looking for God in 'all the wrong places.'

On Wed, 15 Dec 2010 03:59:00 -0500 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge
15 Dec. 2010

| McGrath fantastic | Video lectures | Tulsa update | John Michael Talbot

McGRATH FANTASTIC -- Some estimated 650 of us who heard Dr. Alister McGrath speak on Saturday night, December 11, are thanking God specifically for McGrath's powerful ministry, and for the Lanier Theological Library that sponsored his appearance. Many attending traveled some distance, including Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President and Mrs. Paige Patterson from Fort Worth, Texas, Lipscomb University President and Mrs. Randy Lowry from Tennessee, Professor Carloss Gupton from Tennessee, ACU/Leafwood Publisher Leonard Allen from Arkansas (here on other business also), Physician/Bible teacher Dr. Ray Wilson from Lubbock, plus gracEmail subscribers from San Antonio and elsewhere, and area ministers and other Bible students from many denominations. Professor McGrath spoke concerning the reasonableness of Christianity and loving God with the mind. His latest book is The Passionate Intellect: The Christian Faith and Discipleship of the Mind.

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