From a Christian PhD

How wrong can a PhD be?

To avoid confusing the ideas of David J. Dunn PhD from my comments, I will add my comments in green italics.

The following article is reprinted in its entirety from the Huffington Post to point out the errors in thinking made by its original contributor, David J. Dunn, PhD. He describes himself to be a theologian in the Eastern Orthodox tradition which claims to be the original Christian faith passed down from the apostles. Earning his theology PhD from Vanderbilt University, a private school.  

By David J. Dunn, PhD, Contributor Theological troublemaker. Orthodox Christian.

God Does Not “Exist” — What Atheists And Christians Both Get Wrong About God

10/27/2016 06:57 am ET Updated Oct 27, 2016

            The god most atheists think they reject is the god most Christians should. Atheists and Christians share a remarkably similar view of God. They think of God as a kind of big person, a category mistake which perpetuates misunderstanding.

[Comment: Atheists do not think of God as a big person. They don’t believe a God exists, either as a big person or a frog or walnut. Why would you describe something that doesn’t exist as a big person?]

          There are two kinds of atheists. One rejects belief in God for lack of evidence. The other does not accept belief in God for lack of evidence. The distinction is subtle. The first is more active, making a choice not to believe, whereas the other is more passive, not making the choice to believe. Both are united in their view that something should only be believed if there is evidence. Far too many Christians agree.

[Comment: The distinction is not subtle. It does not exist. One does not choose not to believe. One simply does not believe. I don’t believe in Zeus or Thor. I didn’t choose not to believe in them, I just never believed in them. I agree with David on his next point that something should believed only if there is evidence. David complains that far too many Christians agree with that. He thinks that the best Christians believe things in the absence of evidence. I would submit that belief in the absence of evidence is one of the main problems in all religions.]

          A common Christian response to unbelief is apologetics. This is the “science” of “proving” the claims of the Christian faith. An apologist might, for instance, try to prove that the resurrection happened by pointing to eyewitness testimony or the violent deaths of the apostles (who would not have chosen to die for a lie). Apologists’ arguments for the existence of God involve totaling improbabilities, such as the chance that there would even be life at all, or that the distance of the sun relative to the moon could lead to the beauty of a total solar eclipse. Does this not prove the existence of a loving Creator?

          It is all nonsense. Apologetics only convinces those already inclined to believe. It is good for making some Christians feel more “legitimate” but terrible at convincing atheists. Atheists are right to point out that question-begging eyewitness testimony, historically questionable martyrdoms, and the occasional celestial blindness trap hardly prove anything.

          Atheists sit around asking why God does not prove God’s own existence. Apologists pace the floor insisting that God does. Both assume that such a thing is even possible in the first place.

[Comment: Let me remind you again David, atheists do not believe there is a God. Why would you think they ask why God does not prove God’s own existence.]

          If the creation contains evidence of the Creator, that evidence is not very convincing. So apologists are left saying that God wants us to have at least a little faith. And atheists rightly respond with, “Why?” I’ve never heard and atheists say that. Both are making the same mistake. Both are thinking about the Deity as if it were a more powerful kind of human, like Zeus or Superman. This god is like us, only stronger, and with X-ray vision. This god experiences time in the same way we do. This god has a past, present, and future. This god decides to do some things and decides not to do others. This god does a neat forced perspective trick with the sun and the moon, but opts not to come down out of the clouds and say, “Hey everybody!” What a cruel and stupid being. Atheists are right to be indignant.

[Comment: Atheists are no more indignant about what God does or does not do then they are indignant about all the kings men failing to put Humpty Dumpty together again.]

          But God is not a being. God is not the highest being. God does not, technically speaking, exist. You exist. I exist. Superman exists (in the imagination). Our ideas of God also exist. But God is not in those ideas. God is beyond human conception. That from whence existence comes must be beyond existence itself.

[Comment: In this last sentence David is saying that God must be beyond existence. By definition, anything that is beyond existence doesn't exist. That's a pretty simple concept. David,you can't just invent new definitions for words if you are going to use the English language to communicate ideas.] 

          You cannot prove God exists because you cannot prove what is not true.

[Comment: David, that’s the most intelligent thing you’ve said so far. If the previous sentence was the only thing you wrote I would think you are an atheist.]

          Nor can God prove God’s own “existence” in a way that would satisfy either atheists or apologists. This is not because God is not all powerful. (And how very American, and male, by the way, to focus on God’s power.) It is just the nature of things.

[Comment: This sentence says that even if God is all powerful he can’t prove his own existence. If he is all-powerful he should be able to do anything. If there was a God I wonder how he would feel about your belittling his powers.]

          God is not like us. God cannot, for instance, tell a joke... This is not because God does not have a sense of humor, which is clearly false (just look at the platypus). This is because the moment God says, “Your momma’s so fat,” your mom becomes HUGE!

[Comment: David, how did you ever get a doctorate degree in religion? You say God is not like us. I thought his good book says that he created us in his own image. I agree that God cannot tell a joke. Neither can Paul Bunyan. The reason is the same. There is no God and there is no Paul Bunyan. As for your last statement about making your momma fat, are you telling us that God has the same affliction as King Midas. Everything King Midas touched turned to gold. The king couldn’t help it. Are you saying that God can’t control his ideas any more than King Midas could control his touch?]

          God is. God does not have a mind, like we do. God is mind. God does not have a will, like we do. God is willing. God does not make decisions, as we understand it. God does what God has always decided to be in and for Godself. God does not have parts.

 [Comment: If God does not have a mind like we do and he can’t make decisions as we understand it please tell me how you have the ability to explain it to us.]

          God creates not because God chooses to create. Rather, creation is the consequence of God being God (a God who relates). We human beings think about things, make up our minds, ask questions, and choose some options over others. For God, there are no options in any meaningful sense of the word. By way of analogy, one might say that God could have chosen not to create in much the same way that you or I could choose to eat a baby. Is it an option? Yes. Is it a live option? No! It is practically unthinkable.

[Comment: David, I see that you don’t agree with the Old Testament. You need to write your own Bible. Genesis 1:3 and God said, let there be light: and there was light. And I thought God created the Garden of Eden. Did the Bible say that God created Adam from the dust of the earth and Eve from Adam’s rib. Did God create the plagues in Egypt? Did God choose to create Noah’s great flood? Come to think of it it seems you don’t agree with the New Testament either. Do you think that the creation of the baby Jesus in Mary’s womb was an accident? If I believe there was a God I would certainly believe that he chooses to create.]

          ”The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalms 19:1, KJV). There are vestiges of God in creation, but only for the eyes of faith. Creation is a kind of icon, a window to the divine. Faith is not reason. Nor is faith the opposite of reason. The Christian tradition has always taught that faith is higher than reason. Reason looks ahead and sees things in the distance. Faith tries to see just beyond the horizon. Faith is not belief despite evidence. Faith is falling in love. When you are in love, evidence is irrelevant. In this way, apologists do a great disservice to faith. You cannot argue someone into love.

[Comment: You can’t change the meaning of a word just because it makes you feel good. Faith is a word that has a meaning when referring to religion. The definition of faith is: strong belief in God or in the doctrine of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. There is nothing about love in the definition of faith.]

          The Christian theological tradition has always balanced the “cataphatic” with the “apophatic,” or “positive” and “negative” theology. Positive theology gives you an analogy upon which to stand. Negative theology pulls the rug out from underneath you. Positive theology makes an affirmation. Negative theology contradicts it. Positive theology calls God, “Creator.” Negative theology says, “God does not ‘create.’” Positive theology says, “God is your Father.” Negative theology adds, “and your Mother.” The balance between the two is like a koan in Zen Buddhism. They work to clear the mind of certainties and fixed concepts. They smash idols.

[Comment: This paragraph sounds to me like you decided to put in something that would make you sound intelligent, with deep thoughts. Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Biology is the study of living organisms. There is no more a negative theology than there is a negative biology.]mail

          St. Anselm described God as “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” (Though Anselm is often accused of engaging in apologetics, recent scholarship convincingly demonstrates that he was engaged in something more like intellectual worship.) This “definition” is constantly shaking the branches upon which the mind may come to rest. An apologist/atheist might imagine a god who can offer indubitable proof of God’s existence. But theology conceives of something greater than that—a God so beyond human comprehension as to be be nothing but dubitable. This is not God’s “fault.” It is just the way it is.

          How would you prove your existence to an ant? Can an ant conceive of you? You could step on it, but an ant could have no awareness of what smote it, only that it had been smote. We are simply too far beyond ants for them to make sense of us. Perhaps I could have a great machine that could turn me into an ant. I could become an ant and tell them about my true nature. But how do you explain who you are using nothing but your feelers and pheromones? 

[Comment: Why would you try to compare the conveyance of an idea between God and man as being the same as the conveyance of an idea between a man and an ant. If God is real and he caused the Bible to be written, he intended it to be understood by man. Can you conceive of a man writing a book to be understood by an ant?]

          (Lest any guitar playing youth pastor be tempted to use that analogy to explain the incarnation, let me be clear that from the perspective of Christian doctrine, most of what I just said is heresy.)

          The fact that I cannot offer indubitable proof of my existence to an ant is not the ant’s fault. Nor is it my fault. I am not limited. In a manner of speaking, the ant is. The distance between us is just too great for the ant to make sense of whatever the heck it is I might be.

[Comment: You’re right, it’s not the ant’s fault. It’s your fault for selecting the ant. Try proving your existence to a chimpanzee. He would recognize your existence. Or are you saying that God’s brain is better than yours by the same degree that your brain is better than that of an ant? You certainly must have had an interesting education.]

          Atheists and apologists both fix their minds on anthropomorphic ideas about God. Atheists asks, “Why can’t God prove God exists?” Apologists reply, “God does (mostly)!” But evidence of God is just not possible, not in any meaningful way. You cannot prove your existence if you are beyond existence itself. That is like trying to explain how a circle might have corners.

[Comment: Atheists don’t ask, “why can’t God prove God exists?” They don’t ask that because they don’t believe there’s a God. They also don’t ask, “Why can’t Bigfoot prove Bigfoot exists?”]

          Atheists and apologists each claim to be more reasonable than the other, but neither is. Both make a “leap” of faith. Agnosticism is a philosophically defensible position. There is nothing wrong with not being able to make up one’s mind in the face of inconclusive evidence. But to believe or not believe in that which cannot be known? That is a decision. Neither the atheist who chooses not to believe in God on logical grounds, nor the apologist who tries to make a logical case for faith, has reason to fault the other. They are both wrong in equal and opposite directions.

[Comment: I’m going to try to explain it to you again. Atheists do not choose not to believe in God. It is not a choice they made any more than they decided to enjoy good food or feel uncomfortable walking barefoot on gravel. An atheist does not believe in God because he/she has never seen any convincing evidence that a God exists.]