The indefinable God
The Rev Sam said:
“i) it is a central claim of the tradition that God is ultimately mysterious and not finally knowable. We cannot attain to a position of oversight with respect to God, we are always in an inferior position – that’s part of what the word ‘God’ means – something which is above and beyond our comprehension. Any analysis which seeks to render God’s attributes definable is not engaging with a Christian analysis.”
A further thought on that. The very same move can and no doubt would be made on Eth by those who believe in an evil God (see The God of Eth). Consider this Ethian response to the problem of good:
Gizimoth: “There’s too much good for this to be the creation of an all-powerful and evil God”
Booblefrip: “Ah, but you must understand that ‘evil’ as applied to God means something other than what it means when applied to humans.”
Gizimoth: “What does it mean, then?”
Booblefrip: “Well, Evil God, and his attributes, are indefinable. He is, ultimately, a mystery, something beyond our comprehension.”
Notice how this is often a combination of at least two ploys: playing the mystery card (see The God of Eth), and what we might call, “Now you see it, now you don’t“:
Make a claim about God. If anyone looks like shooting it down, quickly pull it back, saying, “Oh, you’ve misunderstood, you’ve taken me too literally!” But then vaguely sort of make the claim again. Then, if any one takes aim, whip it back and again accuse them of a crass misunderstanding. And so on. Keep going till your opponent finally tires and gives up. Then claim victory.
Other rhetorical ploys may be applied too. Perhaps pseudo-profundity…
Lash, clearly an influence on Sam, says, I seem to remember, something like “Whatever we say about God must then be unsaid.”
Assert, but then deny! God is. And yet, he is not! God is everything, and nothing! He is good. But then, he’s not!
Outside of religion, this is widely recognized as a classic bullshit artists’ device (see e.g. Thinking from A to Z by Warburton). It’s even got a name. I did a post on it ages ago (I wasn’t even considering a religious use of it) – check “pseudoprofundity” where I said:
[[TEXT BOX: Another secret of pseudo-profundity is to pick two words that have opposite or incompatible meanings, and combine them cryptically, like so:
Sanity is just another kind of madness
Life is a often a form of death
The ordinary is extraordinary
Try it for yourself. You’ll soon start sounding deep. In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen-Eighty Four, the three slogans of the Party are all examples of this sort of pseudo-profundity:
War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength
A particularly useful feature of these remarks is that they make your audience do all the work for you. “Freedom is a kind of slavery” for example, is interpretable in all sorts of ways that probably won’t even have occurred to you. Just sit back, adopt a sage-like expression, and let your audience figure out what you mean.
None of this is to say that such cryptic remarks can’t be profound, of course. But given the ease with which they are generated, it’s wise not to be too easily impressed.END OF TEXT BOX]]
Notice my line:
“Just sit back, adopt a sage-like expression, and let your audience figure out what you mean.”
Particularly appropriate here, I think.