Thursday

NONTHEISM: God as the Ground of All Being VS ATHEISM



From John Shelby Spong "A New Christianity For A New World" (HarperCollins: 2001)

... definition of a non-theistic God ... God is being - the reality underlying everything that is. ... This God is not a supernatural entity who rides into time and space to rescue the distressed. This God is the Source of life, the Source of life, the Ground of Being. ... the God beyond theism - the God Tillich described as the God beyond the gods of men and women ... pp. 72-73

This God is not identified with doctrines, creeds, and traditions. .. This God can never be captured in words or made to serve our power-needs. This god is beyond everything. This God is unavoidable, inescapable, omnipresent. p. 74

If God is the Ground of Being, then my being is a part of this inescapable divine reality. p. 75

.. a post-theistic God, the God who is not a person but the source of that power that nurtures personhood, not a being but the Ground of Being, the source from which all being flows. ... The central issue is that: "God is not a person. God is not a being. God is Being itself." ... God is not a being, supernatural in power ... p. 240

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Traditional Christian theology has been based upon the proofs for the existence of God. ... the proposition behind it is that there is an entity or being 'out there' whose existence is problematic and has to be demonstrated. Now such an entity, even if it could be proved beyond dispute, would not be God: it would merely be a further piece of existence, that might conceivably not have been there - or a demonstration would not have been required. Rather, we must start the other way round.  God is, by
definition, ultimate reality.  One cannot argue whether ultimate reality exists. One can only ask what ultimate reality is like ... the fundamental theological question consists not in establishing the 'existence' of God as a separate entity but in pressing through in ultimate concern to what Tillich calls 'the ground of our being'.  p. 29

The existence of God as a separate entity can, he says, be dismissed as superfluous; for the world may be explained just as adequately without positing such a Being. p. 31

But suppose there is no Being out there at all?  Suppose, to use our analogy, the skies are empty.  ... Tillich proposes replacing the images of 'height' by those of 'depth' in order to express the truth of God. ... Tillich points out: 'Deep' in its spiritual use has two meanings: it means either the opposite of 'shallow', or the opposite of high'. Truth is deep and not shallow; suffering is depth and not height.  Both the light of truth and the darkness of suffering are deep.  There is a depth in God, and there is a depth out of which the Psalmist cries to God.  ...  When Tillich speaks of God in 'depth', he is not speaking of another Being at all.  He us speaking of ' the infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being', of our ultimate concern, of what we take seriously without reservation.  ... The name of this infinite and inexhaustible ground of history is God.  That is what the word means, and it is to that to which the words Kingdom of God and Divine providence point. And if these words do not have much meaning for you, translate them, and speak of the depth of history,  of the ground and aim of our social life, and what you take seriously without reservation in your moral and political activities.  Perhaps you should call this depth hope, simply hope. ... What Tillich is meaning by God is the exact opposite of ... a supernatural Being ... God is not 'out there'. He is in Bonhoeffer's words ' the "beyond" in the midst of our life, a depth of reality reached 'not on the borders of life but at its centre' ... by ... in Kierkegaard's fine phrase ... 'a deeper immersion in existence'.  For the word 'God' denotes the ultimate depth of all our being, the creative ground and meaning of our existence.  pp 45-47

All true awareness of God is an experience at one and the same time of ultimacy and intimacy, of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.  p. 131

from John A T Robinson - "Honest to God" (SCM Press: 1963)

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Karen Armstrong's 'A History of God' ( Vintage; London:1993)

Throughout history people have discarded a conception of God when it no longer works for them. p. 408.

[Carl] Jung .... whether he believed in God ... replied emphatically: 'I do not have to believe. I know!' Jung's continued faith suggests that a subjective God, mysteriously identified with the ground of being in the depths of the self, can survive psychoanalytic science in a way that a more personal, anthropomorphic deity who can encourage perpetual immaturity may not. p. 410

It is impossible for us to meet God in any anthropomorphic way. God is the Ground of all being, so bound up with our own existence that we cannot possibly talk to him, as though he were simply another person like ourselves. There are no words or ideas that describe God. p. 426

Paul Tillich (1868-1965) ... A God who kept tinkering with the universe was absurd; a God who interfered with human freedom and creativity was a tyrant. If God is seen as a self in a world of his own, an ego that relates to a thou, a cause separate from its effect, 'he' becomes a being, not Being itself. An omnipotent, all-knowing tyrant is not so different from earthly dictators who made everything and everybody mere cogs in the machine which they controlled. An atheism that rejects such a God is amply justified. Instead we should seek to find a 'God' above this personal God. ..... a God who, as Being itself, was nearer to the I than our own ego. Tillich preferred the definition of God as the Ground of being. Participation in such a God above 'God' does not alienate us from the world but immerses us in reality. It returns us to ourselves. Human beings have to use symbols when they talk about Being-itself: to speak literally or realistically about it is inaccurate and untrue. ... pp. 438-439

The mystics have long insisted that God is not an-Other Being; they have claimed that he does not really exist and that it is better to call him Nothing. This God is in tune with the atheistic mood of our secular society with its distrust of inadequate images of the absolute. Instead of seeing God as an objective Fact, which can be demonstrated by means of scientific proof, mystics have claimed that he is a subjective experience, mysteriously experienced in the ground of being. This God is to be approached through the imagination and can be seen as a kind of art form, akin to the other great artistic symbols that have expressed the ineffable mystery, beauty and value of life. Mystics have used music, dancing, poetry, fiction, stories, painting, sculpture and architecture to express this Reality that goes beyond concepts. Like all art, however, mysticism requires intelligence, discipline and self-criticism as a safeguard against indulgent emotionalism and projection. ... The God of the mystics does not arrive ready-made and prepackaged. ... God does not exist in any simplistic sense, for example, or that the very word 'God' is only a symbol of a reality that ineffably transcends it. ... pp. 454 -455

Ever since the prophets of Israel started to ascribe their own feelings and experiences to God, monotheists have in some sense created a God for themselves. God has rarely been seen as a self-evident fact that can be encountered like any other objective existent. p.456

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Atheism has no POSITIVE PROOF that there are no gods of any type. It proceeds by a negative argument that belief in gods has no empirical evidence. Even if this negative argument is correct it is not a positive argument FOR atheism. Both atheism and theism could therefore logically both be wrong.

A non-theistic God who does not exist (theism) but is the Ground of all existence is hardly discussed by atheists. Atheists seem to not understand that it is utterly impossible to have empirical proof / evidence for that which is non-empirical.That is a category error. A non-theistic God does not exist (by definition) but is the Ground of all existence. It is thus completely illogical and irrational for atheists to demand evidence of that which does not have the property of which it creates - a non-theistic God does not have the property of existence but is that which makes existence possible.

Absolutist atheist claims are as absurd as absolutist fundamentalist Christian claims. Atheist statements such as "NO gods exist" and "ALL religion leads to evil" are absolutist and full of claims of certainty. These claims of certainty are invalid, using atheist's own criteria, because they cannot be empirically verified.

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argument from omniscience: (e.g., All people believe in something. Everyone knows that.) An arguer would need omniscience to know about everyone's beliefs or disbeliefs or about their knowledge. Beware of words like "all," "everyone," "everything," "absolute."

from http://www.nobeliefs.com/fallacies.htm

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Some ignorant atheists say that the notion of a non-theistic God is "moving the goal posts". However, this same concept of God is found in Brahman in the Vedas which is around 3000 - 3500 years old and therefore nothing new. (Unless you happen to think something 3000 to 3500 years old is somehow "new") Theology and the philosophy of religion also keep evolving and don't remain static in the type of 1950's theistic straw man that atheists usually attack.

Non-theism and a God who is the Ground of All Being also fits in well with Possibilianism of Dr David Eagleman. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LENqnjZGX0A

I quote:

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Perhaps people are getting a little bit tired of the certainty that is proposed about topics that one cannot possibly be certain on. So Voltaire said "Doubt is an uncomfortable position but certainty is an absurd position". ... The interesting part of being a Possibilium is where science leaves off, where we are no longer able to test things and instead we are at a point beyond science's toolbox. That's a very interesting part of the Possibility Space. ... There's a lot that we know for sure that we don't know. ... What we do not know is how to take mechanical pieces and parts and build it in such a way that there is private objective experience *[referring to mind]. If I gave you a trillion Tinker toys ... at what point do you add one more Tinker toy and you say "Now it is experiencing the taste of cheddar cheese"? ... All of this calls for a little intellectual humility. ... I'd rather Geek out. ... I'm going to be creative and come up with new narratives. I'm going to be comfortable holding multiple possibilities in mind. And if you're going to Geek out you should feel free to cite the gospel of science. To tell the three words which are the most important three words that science ever gave to humankind - "I don't know."

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"I don't know" has none of the absolute certainties of absolute atheism with its "NO gods exist" and "ALL religion leads to evil" nor any of the certainties of religious fundamentalism.

"All I can do is to try to be honest - honest to God and about God - and to follow the argument wherever it leads." - John A T Robinson - "Honest to God" (SCM Press: 1963) p.28