Theological sophistry

Every now and then, I come into contact with liberal theology. Usually this means that the theologian happily accepts scientific theories like evolution, and regards the Bible as an imperfect, human-wrought (but possibly God-inspired) conception of the supernatural.

In a Facebook discussion group, I’ve recently been talking with someone who has such views. He is very well versed in the sciences, and has produced a number of extremely well-written descriptions of various aspects of evolutionary science.

When this person is pushed for an account of his theology, though, it seems as if a fog settles over the discussion. For instance, I am told that God is “behind” nature, even though he doesn’t explicitly guide it.

Instead of dropping the God hypothesis due to lack of evidence, liberal theologians invent a place to put God where he cannot be detected. Or they infuse nature with some sort of ill-defined godly quality that cannot be seen. Or they make the baffling argument, as Karen Armstrong does, that God does not exist in any conventional sense, but is conceptually manifest in some way.

The sophistry makes my eyes water.

I rather get the feeling that liberal theologians cling to such ideas not because there is evidence to support them, or because there is some logical argument in their favor. It seems they cling to these ideas as a last-ditch attempt to maintain their cherished childhood beliefs and needless to say, this carries a whiff of intellectual dishonesty.

Perhaps I am wrong, and liberal theologians genuinely believe there is an argument in favor of their ideas. If so, I have yet to see such an argument, let alone decent definitions of the concepts behind them.


4 Responses to Theological sophistry

  1. Ruedi says:

    It makes my eyes water, too! 🙂
    I have often thought to myself that from my perspective, the difference between an atheist and a liberal christian is for all practical purposes negligible: The atheist does not believe in a God who (in fact) exists, and the liberal christian believes in a God who (in fact) does not exist. Comes out to about the same… Now of course the question of “evidence” for any of that, or for any other alternative… that’s an entirely different matter again.

  2. Keith says:

    Ruedi. It seems to boil down to the fact that most atheists and traditional Christians see the Bible in the same way: the Bible is an honest attempt by real people to describe a real God that intervenes in the world and can communicate with people.

    Of course, atheists think the Bible is just flat wrong about all of this. And I think the most liberal Christians agree. But instead of washing their hands of the entire enterprise, as atheists do, liberal Christians insist on clinging to their beliefs by distorting and reinterpreting the Bible in whatever way is necessary in order to come up with a worldview that doesn’t blatantly contradict the godless world of science and modern philosophy.

  3. I think for some people, no matter how intelligent they are, it just feels right to believe in God. Especially if you associate those feeling with the warm and fuzzy ones of childhood, family, friends, and comfort. I get that.

  4. Keith says:

    Yep, I get that too. In my essay on religion, I offer the suggestion that people sometimes believe in God because he serves as a reliable father figure after believers have become disillusioned with the power of their own fathers.

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