A Response to
'Theology Achieves Nothing?'
by Paul Hazelden


Introduction

This is a response to the 'Theology Achieves Nothing?' article.

It was followed by another two articles: 'Response 2 to 'Theology Achieves Nothing?'' and 'Response 3 to 'Theology Achieves Nothing?''.

The Response

I read some of your comments responding to Richard Dawkins.

I think some people derive much more satisfaction working with concrete ideas which have an objective reality. For example, most scientific subject are experimental, i.e., one can, in principle at least, do an experiment to confirm or refute a hypothesis. Others can repeat the experiment. On the other hand, theology largly deals with concepts that do not have an objective reality. They cannot be detected by any of the 5 senses or with instruments. Further there is no general agreement on theological concepts since they are subjective. They also invoke the supernatural. By it's nature, a claimed supernatural event cannot be tested or replicated. Thus the only thing left to validate a supernatural claim is the claim itself. But one person's supernatural claim is another person' superstition. Also, once supernatural claims are considered admissible, what's to prevent a host of other supernatural claims to be considered valid? Witchcraft, dowsing, astrology, prophesies of other religions, etc., all make their claims. There is no fundamental principle favoring one over another. Mere fervor of belief is no guide to truth. (If it were, the suicide bomber would be the supreme truth carrier). But since no proof, or even the likelyhood of these claims being true exists, wouldn't the best default position be that they don't exist until proven otherwise? The trouble with theology is that is built on top of supernatural assumptions. It constructs concepts(god, the holy ghost, the trinity, the resurrection, salvation, etc.) which are completely synthetic, then procedes to create an elaborate traffic in these concepts. The sheer volume of the traffic gives the impression something important is being said.

My Reply

Thanks for the message.

You won't be surprised that I don't entirely agree with you...

Firstly, I have no problems with Dawkins as a scientist. He is probably quite a good one. My primary issue with him is when he starts to make pronouncements about God - which he spends a lot of time doing. At this point, he is engaging in theology, even though he also claims it is a waste of time. He can't have it both ways!

You say that "By it's nature, a claimed supernatural event cannot be tested or replicated." You seem to be missing the obvious point that no claimed natural event can be tested or replicated. No statement about the past can possibly be tested, in the scientific sense. No event can be replicated, nor does it need to be. Science is not concerned with replicating past events, but with predicting future ones.

As for the rest of what you are saying - my (charitable!) assumption is that you have not read most of the rest of what I have to say on the web site. I have no time for theology as an exercise in speculation. I am primarily interested in facts and evidence.

It seems to me that there is good, rational evidence supporting the basic claims of the Christian faith. I don't believe in fairies, because I have not seen evidence for them. On the other hand, I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus because of the evidence for that. And, if the resurrection is the best working hypothesis we have, then it makes sense to suppose that Jesus was more or less right in the things he taught.

I have no interest in the 'amount of traffic' on a subject. Football and rugby and baseball are not important because a lot of people spend a lot of time on them. However, questions about the purpose of human life, whether it has any value, and whether there are such things as right and wrong are matters of importance, however much or how little is said about them.

Quite clearly, other people believe a lot of other things. But, for me, the resurrection is not a 'supernatural assumption' - it is either a fact of history, or it is a piece of elaborate fiction. Personally, I have examined that latter hypothesis, and I just don't have the faith to believe it.

Paul.

[On to the 'Response 2 to 'Theology Achieves Nothing?'' article]

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