Ed Feser Notes That Really, If You Want to Talk about "God" as a Philosophical Concept...

it is kind of necessary to grapple with the the God of classical theism, and not just "God" as conceived by some cable-TV preacher:

"We classical theists have Plato, Aristotle, Philo of Alexandria, Plotinus, Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, Scotus, and about a gazillion other Scholastics, Neo-Platonists, and Aristotelians. Not to mention a lot of early Protestants, and not a few later ones."

And having studied Eastern religions a fair amount, and having taught them, I can say that philosophical Hinduism, Taoism (it is not an accident that Christian missionaries to China translated "I am the way" as "I am the Tao"), and even Buddhism, understood properly, are also on the side of the "classical theists" in their conception of divinity.

Thus the frequent atheist taunt of "You reject belief in all gods but your own particular god; I just go the one, logical step further and reject belief in all gods" is shown to be absurd: in fact, a myriad of brilliant thinkers from diverse cultures have arrived at remarkably similar conceptions of the divine. Of course, there are important differences in the details, but if, as all these thinkers assert, the divine is ultimately beyond human comprehension and ultimately indescribable, should we be surprised that our limited attempts at describing it diverge and take on colorings of our particular cultures?

4 comments:

  1. You are blurring two very different points here it seems.

    Sure, the Scholastics, Augustine, Aquinas, etc. are perhaps closer to Taoists than televangelists in their philosophical rendition of a concept like divinity.

    But the Scholastics, Augustine, and Aquinas are closer to televangelists on the question of whether various understandings of the divine are just divergences that take on the coloring of particular culture.

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    1. "But the Scholastics, Augustine, and Aquinas are closer to televangelists on the question of whether various understandings of the divine are just divergences that take on the coloring of particular culture."

      Evidence?

      And anyway, if they are, what would that have to do with my point?

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  2. I have no background in religious studies, so I was surprised when I found that there is a remarkable similarity between various religions -- and, in fact, many religions (well, I suppose religious thinkers is more appropriate) do make these connections. I've never made the connection between religious diversity and human fallibility -- it's a brilliant point, I think.

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  3. "... the divine is ultimately beyond human comprehension and ultimately indescribable ..."

    I agree with this entirely.

    "... should we be surprised that our limited attempts at describing it diverge and take on colorings of our particular cultures?"

    No, we should not.

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