On the verification of a proof of ‘God’s existence’

Der Spiegel online offered an eye-cathcing headline last week: ‘Computer Scientists “Prove”  God Exists’ (article here). The article referred to a pre-publication report of a paper submitted to arxiv.org last month, entitled ‘Formalization, Mechanization and Automation of Gödel’s Proof of God’s Existence’ (here). Essentially, the paper claims – it is more of an abstract and statement of results – that (a form of) Kurt Gödel’s modal ontological argument had been successfully coded, and that its validity had been demonstrated using – the detail I rather liked – programs running on a MacBook. As my colleague Alan Torrance pointed out on FB, this is not surprising; there has been a fairly...

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Defining liberal Christianity

There are a number of reports on the Web reacting to last week’s ECUSA triennial convention - Mike Bird linked to one at BeliefNet and one at the WSJ; Several people on Twitter and FB pointed out Ross Douthat’s piece in the NY Times, which took the opportunity to give thought to the wider issue of the ‘collapse’ (his word) of liberal Christianity in the USA. The piece is humorous (‘Leaders of liberal churches have alternated between a Monty Python-esque “it’s just a flesh wound!” bravado and a weird self-righteousness about their looming extinction.’) and perceptive in drawing attention to a fact that is also one of the chief lessons of Goodhew’s Church Growth in Britain: there is a strong positive correlation between...

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Foundationalist epistemology and the concern for systematic order

(A title just guaranteed to bring the readers flocking…) I have had cause to notice before, certainly in print and I think on this blog, that the older dogmaticians were not particularly interested in the order in which they treated topics. The great medieval systems tended to follow the pattern of Lombard’s Sentences, which in turn owed at least something to the shape of the creed; that this order was fairly uncontroversial and unquestioned is already indicative that they generally did not think the arrangement mattered very much. The theologians of the nascent school traditions that arose after the Reformation were faced with the same question, and with at least two reasons to take it seriously: a humanist concern for good order in writing; and the...

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Being a theologian for the church

(Phil. 3:12: ‘not that I have already achieved all this…’) Over the past week, in a variety of ways, a number of connected strands of conversation, each of which I regularly find myself overhearing or involved with, have all come to notice or prominence. All relate to the question of the connection of ‘theologians’ to the life of the church. Often there is an expressed sadness or concern that the various churches – particularly, in my hearing, the Evangelical and Baptist churches that I have the privilege to serve – are not willing, or at least not willing enough, to hear or to use the insights of theologians. As I drove back from giving a lecture in a church conference, in could see in my head a somewhat angry...

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Why there are no theological problems

Jacques Maritain somewhere makes a distinction that I find helpful between a ‘problem’ and a ‘mystery’. A problem admits of a solution – ‘can you prove Fermat’s last theorem?’ ‘is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?’ ‘does the Higgs boson exist, and if so, at what mass?’ – even if we don’t currently know the solution, it makes sense to look for a final answer which will lay the question to rest. A mystery, by contrast, can never be solved, only clarified; ‘what is beauty?’ might be a mystery: there is in principle no final answer, only a series of explorations (proportion; harmony; the sublime; …) which help us to think more clearly about the issue....

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