The Obvious Objection

Ed Feser provides it, to those who object to, say, me, when my God is not the God of the man on the street:

"It is no good replying that lots of ordinary religious people conceive of God in all sorts of crude ways at odds with the sophisticated philosophical theology developed by classical theists – ways that make of God something like a glorified Thor or Zeus. The 'man on the street' also believes all sorts of silly things about science – that Darwinism claims that monkeys gave birth to human beings, say, or that molecules are made up of little balls and sticks. But it would be preposterous for someone to pretend he had landed a blow against Darwinism or modern chemistry by attacking these silly straw men. Similarly, what matters in evaluating classical theism is not what your Grandpa or your Pastor Bob have to say about it, but rather what serious thinkers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Avicenna, Averroes, Maimonides, and countless others have to say."


  1. Agreed. The New Atheists are entertaining and witty debaters, but astonishingly inept thinkers.

    So, while I have a very hard time taking organized religion seriously (Jewish agnostic/seeker/questioner here), I try to avoid caricaturing it like Dawkins and Hitchens do. Although this can sometimes be difficult, because the people I discuss and debate with often believe in the caricatures, and I end up having to defend their own religion against them!

  2. I call this the 'Paganism is silly' argument rather than the 'one less god' argument.

    Whenever I encounter it, I have taken to defending the pagans. They never see *that* coming.

    I hadn't thought of it his way, though, probably because I don't know any classical theism myself. I suppose I am one of those ignorant men-on-the-street.

  3. Scott, we are all ignorant about many things. What is intolerable is to be both ignorant and a know-it-all on the same subject!

  4. Anonymous1:33 PM

    illiterati lumen fidei
    god is with us every day

  5. Why the hate for Pastor Bob? Should we expect him to avoid naive theological misconceptions as well as e.g. a biology professor avoids naive misconceptions about evolution?

  6. No hate for Pastor Bob. Just, he's not much of a target to set your sights on.

  7. But he's certainly as much a sight as a biology professor on evolution, and we can certainly expect the latter not to make the naive mistakes you mention. Why can't we expect the same on theology from a pastor? Why shouldn't we be disappointed with their near universal deviation from the "God just means good stuff"-type non-crackpot theology of the greats you listed?

    (Yes, I'm greatly oversimplifying St Thomas et al's views to fit into a single sentence, please don't dismiss my point merely on that basis.)

  8. Nah, Silas, it's more like critiquing evolution based on the sayings of your high school biology teacher, who probably said things like "As fish struggled to achieve life on the land..." (Or a Discovery Channel documentary, that probably says things just like that as well.)

    Let's compare like with like:

    biology professor <--> theology professor

    local pastor <--> local biology teacher

  9. Oh, and we certainly should be disappointed with any such naive errors. But don't try to shoot down the sophisticated theory by aiming arrows at the naive one!

  10. A pastor should be compared with a professor, not a high school teacher, since pastors and professors have to get extensive post-graduate education in most denominations. And if (as is usually the case), the pastors plus their parishioners are teaching or believing the same naive errors, that would mean seam to negate the defense that a few luminaries in the field believe sane things, don't you think?

  11. No, Silas, your comparisons are absurd. Most high school teachers have had post-graduate education as well.


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