Does God Exist Beyond Human Language? practical theology

Posted By on October 17, 2019

One of the things I love about doing theology
is how it sharpens the way words are used. Of course that makes it a very contestable
and even disputed subject, though Karl Barth once called it the happy science. Here’s an
example. Atheists are confronted with a problem when
they use the word ‘God’. They claim that both the word and concept are merely human constructions. Some Christians, surprisingly, say exactly
the same. Perhaps one of the most famous in the 20th century being Sir Lloyd Geering of
Wellington, New Zealand. Without doubt, one of the leading international
commentators on Christianity today, Professor Geering was ignominiously put on a heresy
charge. He was Principal of the Presbyterian Knox Theological Hall in Dunedin, a professor
of Old Testament. Although the charge was dismissed, it undoubtedly gave the Church
a very bad press everywhere. Now, what of the widespread claim that the
notion of God is simply the result of the way humans use language? The most convincing counter-claim -ah – I
think goes all the way back to the Greek philosopher, Plato. He talked and wrote about the ‘Notion
of the Good’. And he used mathematics to draw his conclusions. A key point came out of this complex discussion.
Mathematical objects exist and do so independently of what humans think, do, or say about them. And that’s the problem for the atheists and
particularly those who call themselves the Christian atheists. Before dismissing God
as a concept that exists, they would have to dismiss everything other kind of concept
as not having an existence independent of human or other minds. And I suspect that’s
probably quite hard to do. There’s a final point for me that’s nothing
to do with all these abstractions, and it comes back to Karl Barth’s happy science.
Jesus’ teaching about God and the Good comes from a different thought world. For Jesus,
God wasn’t about values, or philosophy or mathematics. He taught that God was personal.
That the kingdom of God was within us. And our continuing response to it produces a pattern
for living. He showed that God is more than the sum total of all that is best in human
experience. It exists in the universe, and it can be evoked in people to enable them
to live with purpose and fulfilment. Beyond philosophy. Meantime, I’m David Bell for the Practical
Theology Channel. Do subscribe, like, share or just keep watching the recommended video
for you. And, thanks for watching.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 1 comment

  1. As someone that was very aware of 'the last heresy trial' at the time, and have heard Lloyd Geering speak on many occasions (at least once or twice ever year over the past 16 at Kapiti's Ephesus Group) I cannot help but be impressed with the man, now in his 90s, by his thoughtful persona, depth of knowledge, remarkable memory, and ability to keep up with modern technology (does great power-points). He has undoubtedly influenced my theology, but I have always felt Lloyd's use of the word 'God' as a term for the best of our human values is not enough (for me) and I warm to your comments.


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