Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Mythical Elements of the Bible

11/16/2013—When I say I don’t believe in God, what do I think I mean? Well, I guess I mean that science gives the ground rules for what is possible. And science tells us that there can be no intentionality without matter at its base. That is the story of the human brain, after all. So, there could not be a God of the sort the Bible indicates—who is spirit and has plans and intentions for humans and all creation.

But it has been pointed out to me that I am identifying the mythic elements of the Bible with the Bible story. That is, the writers of the Old Testament may have had in mind of being, a supreme being, who is all-powerful and who acts in the world. But this is not always the case in the Bible.

In the New Testament, this kind of God is mostly absent. Now, it is true, that in the New Testament there is something like an afterlife and of course resurrection, which might be held to raise the same kind of problem. But resurrection was a strange and mysterious concept even to the writers of the New Testament.

Anyway, what if we could imagine an entirely different kind of starting point. The universe was created. The Big Bang tells us that. And that is what the Bible asserts. Similarly, there is intelligibility in the universe. That is why mathematics can sometimes predict what later experiments will actually show about the way the universe works. That is what was meant when it was said that mathematics shows the mind of God. How there can be such intelligibility remains a total mystery. But the Bible says that the universe is intelligible because it was created by an intelligence. We have no evidence to the contrary.

When asked for his name in Exodus, God answers to Moses with a mysterious formula involving the word is. This is sometimes translated as I am what I am but that is just an approximation. It has been suggested to me, and was claimed by Karl Barth at least at one point, that God is isness itself. A formula like that sounds very much like Heidegger’s being.

I guess the point of this is that the statement, I don’t believe in God, is probably a great deal more complicated than I have heretofore thought. And indeed the idea that the Bible can be easily dismissed may be an example of dismissing a shell and not sampling what is inside it.

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