Translating Karen Armstrong

“God is really a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence”? Might as well just say “God is a gizornimplat goofoo which is glubberfied.” It would be just as meaningful.

Tyler DiPietro posted as a comment at Evolutionblog.

This expresses my feelings about an incredibly large number of statements made by both theologians and philosophers.



Filed under Odds and Ends

2 responses to “Translating Karen Armstrong

  1. Armstrong et al (possibly including Michael Dowd) seem to be trying to retain religious language for its warm-fuzzy emotional resonances while strategically emptying it of all semantic content (thereby putting it conveniently beyond the reach of rude refutation). Being ex-religious (and it took me a long time to let go of the final tatters of my faith) I can sympathize with impulse. However I think that I (and we) are better off without the linguistic confusion. If there’s no coherent “there” there, then just admit it and be a forthright non-believer.

  2. I approach the long tradition of theology and theology-influenced philosophy in much the same way I approach work done in the Marxist tradition. I’m neither a theist nor a Marxist, so I don’t share the framework in which these people worked, but I find that much of their thought retains its value, not only in spite of, but because of their doctrinal commitments/prejudices/axioms/metaphors. Perspectives are one-sided by definition, but all of us have one—wherever you are, you’re someplace—and thinking really can’t dispense with perspectives or even meaningfully reject them without coming to terms with them in their specificity. Several millennia of thought just doesn’t boil down to five canned proofs for the existence of God, and not all of us who object to the wholesale rejection of theologically influenced thinking are engaged in apologetics, especially not in the Armstrong manner, which seems to boil away much of what was interesting in the tradition in order to arrive at a vague but defensible remainder. In this regard I can’t resist pointing out that the ineffable she writes about is not the ineffable that was pursued by all those mystics. That was a different ineffable.

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