Philotheism or Theology ?

I maintain on this platform that Theology has become a subsidiary discipline of a mancentric, Materialistic Philosophy. That to restore the understanding of God, we must think philotheistically. That is, on the conceptual assumption that God exists, and that his existence has been defined for us by the words which God declared to Moses, “I AM”.

An interesting example of today’s Theological thinking is provided in an interview published in December 2021 on the University of Oxford website.

The title is derived from the words of the interviewee, Professor Alister McGrath. The title opens with the words:

“Religious people need to explain and debate better…”

Alister McGrath is an exceptional intellect – he has doctorates in Divinity, natural Science, and in intellectual history. He is an Oxford don of long standing now approaching formal retirement. He is an ordained Priest in the Anglican church. The article also informs us that Professor McGrath is ranked on the Academic influence website as “the most influential theologian in the world since 2000.”

Alister McGrath is an exceptional and impressive man who knows his subject far better than I do !

But I take issue with what is attributed to him in this interview “curated” by Sarah Whitebloom.

I take issue as a Philotheist.

But first let me say what I do not dispute.

I do not dispute his willingness as a human being and as a professing Christian to have consideration for other people, to understand what they say, and to respect them and their differences.

I do not dispute the fact that a University teacher is duty bound to consider the questions of this life from different perspectives; to consider evidence and arguments on their merits and according to their context.

I do not dispute his concern for an interdisciplinary approach to research and reflection.

I do not dispute his assertion that the feasts of the religious Christian calendar afford us an opportunity to consider and reflect on priorities and fundamentals of life.

I do, however, dispute what appears from the reported, “curated” text to be an acceptance of today’s man centred paradigm – a paradigm at odds with the Christian worldview.

Let me cite this from the penultimate and partially concluding paragraph which states:

‘People are looking for something that really satisfies their deepest longings. But we have to learn to live with uncertainty about the answers we give to life’s deepest questions. The certainty of political and religious dogmatism makes me uneasy.’

As human beings who should live together in peace regardless of our manifold differences, we should indeed be wary of a dogmatic certainty which leads us to over-ride and impose our views on others. But our respect for others should not lead us to compromise or devalue what we ourselves hold dear or believe.

What I find troubling in Professor McGrath’s comment cited above is the underlying assumption of the spirit of our age: man centred, Materialistic philosophy. It is evident in two ways.

Firstly, if religious dogma makes McGrath uneasy, then what is he suggesting we do with critical doctrines of Christianity like:

  • the dogma of God – “I AM”
  • the dogma of our rebellion against God
  • the dogma of our corruption and self delusion
  • the dogma of God’s judgement
  • the dogma that Christ died on a cross to deliver us from the Judgement of the holy, perfect God
  • the dogma that the Gospel message of Christianity answers our deepest needs and interests
  • the dogma that God commands us to obey his moral, spiritual laws

I take the above dogma to be true.  I endeavour to live and to speak in accordance with those certainties. And yes, I do understand others do not agree with me. But I don’t compromise Christ or the Gospel to appease their disagreement.  Nor do I elevate their worldview above my own.

Secondly, the assumption that everything exists for our personal benefit.

“People are looking for something that really satisfies their deepest longings.”

All sorts of things can satisfy human longing. Today’s philosophical and economic assumptions are that human beings are an assemblage of atoms whose only needs are material. Hence the fundamental conception of total equality. Now, we do have needs to be met. But our greatest need is the discipline and care of our heavenly Father. God is not an option on a supermarket shelf along with whatever alternatives we may prefer.

If God exists, then God must be first, last and everything in between.  Which makes the preoccupation with our senses and desires very much secondary. Indeed that preoccupation serves to feed the dangerous delusion that we are the centre of existence, when in fact [dogma] God is at the centre.

Now, there are indeed uncertainties in life. But the Christian faith provides us with the central certainty of God and his love, as we travel into the unknown future. A God ordained unknowable.

The Christian faith tells me that whatever happens tomorrow, God has a plan and purpose, both for my life and for this world. At the centre of that plan is the process of sanctification. That the trials which I encounter throughout life, are opportunities and tests of my dependence on Christ my Saviour. To obey the apostles concluding injunction to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Now this is apostolic dogma – dogma which has real world outcomes and impacts. Those outcomes include respect and tolerance which give rise to a willingness to reflect on difference and disagreement in order to get to the truth of the matter. Christian dogma underpins and enables reflection and learning. Christian dogma says: love your enemies !

By contrast, the dogma of the Atheist, the Marxist [Lenin, Stalin, Mao], and the fundamentalist radical Islamist breeds intolerance and imposition. It refuses the reflection and tolerance so necessary to research and learning. As does the social justice agenda inspiring academia today, implementing the Materialist mantra of diversity and equality –  dogmatically displacing the Christian paradigm.

Does Professor McGrath recognise this ?

GRC

The full text of the report of the interview is at

https://www.ox.ac.uk/news-and-events/oxford-people/Alister-McGrath

Published
Categorized as Theology