Friday, 15 April 2011

Good Theology

As an atheist, I'm really not into the position to judge whether something is good theology or not. I can point out implications, inconsistencies, and absurdities, but I don't have any basis for what makes something good theology. As such, if someone makes an argument on the basis of their interpretation of scripture, can I really say that they're interpretation is correct?

Ken Miller, for example, argues that ID proponents are wrong on theological grounds. I've heard some people argue that there is hell and some argue that there isn't. I've heard some theologians cite the first two books of Genesis to show that it's not meant to be taken literally, while others say that it should. And to me, that's just fighting over how many angels are dancing on the head of a pin.


Richard T said...

A similar argument could be made of science, I know the sun is going to rise every morning therefore it doesn't matter why. In the case of Genesis, the point is that God created the world. It is also somewhat useful to understand how that happened.

Understanding why something is the case is important. Not every case will provide a why though. It may just raise more questions.

Good theology is rather important as it completely informs what you believe. It is a pretty big area and I could understand why it seems a bit irrelevant to the outsider but it is rather important. Otherwise you have beliefs that probably aren't backed up by the religious text you follow.

Kel said...

My problem is trying to work out what makes for good theology to begin with. If there's a scientific disagreement, there's at least some way to solve it. Look for more evidence, or look for conceptual flaws in the hypothesis. By what standard do we judge good theology?

Take two examples surrounding creation / evolution. The first is between theologian Conor Cunningham and Answers in Genesis leader Ken Ham. In his documentary Did Darwin Kill God?, Cunningham pointed out that obviously Genesis wasn't meant to be taken literally as the first two chapters of Genesis contradict each other. Meanwhile Ken Ham argues that the bible is God's inerrant word so whatever it says must be true. The second example is between the Archbishop of Canterbury and ID proponent Michael Behe where Behe argues that God is necessary to complete evolution, while the Archbishop argues that intervention implies God didn't do a very good job in setting up the universe.

From my perspective, I'm looking at it through the lens of outsider knowledge. My understanding of mythology, history, science, philosophy, etc. On those grounds I can side with Cunningham and the Archbishop, but I don't have any theological grounds to side with either. What makes Cunningham's view over Ham's a better interpretation of scripture. Why does the inerrant view of the bible fail in comparison to an allegorical one on theological grounds? Are the biology supporters like the Archbishop giving a better theological argument than those who find God necessary within processes?

The question has a real practical aspect, however, because of the sheer number of creationists I encounter who are primarily arguing along the lines that evolution and God are incompatible. I can't argue that their theology is right or wrong, maybe their theology is irreconcilable with evolution. In other words, although I side with the archbishop, does he really have a better theological footing than Ken Ham?

Gandolf said...

What do you mean argument over existence of hell?.Of course it exists.