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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Why read theology?

I am thinking about the curriculum for a new compulsory module I have to teach entitled ‘Readings in Medieval Theology,’ and doing the usual academic thing with a new module, particularly a new module you didn’t design, of trying to work out some intentionality: why am I teaching this (beyond the fact that I have to)?; what do I want the students to get out of it? There are various levels at which I can answer the question. The module exists in part because we believe that reading primary sources in the tradition should be a part of a theology degree (there are other compulsory modules in patristics, Reformation, and modern theology). This is in part about content: I occasionally apply the ‘graduation test’ to the curricula I teach:...

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Rob Bell, Love Wins 5

One more post on chapter 1, looking again at complaints about Bell’s ‘orthodoxy.’ The chapter begins with a story that Bell told in the promotional video, and which has therefore become famous. An art exhibition at church included an exhibit with a quotation from Gandhi; someone attached a post-it note reading ‘Reality check: he’s in hell.’ Bell writes: Really? Gandhi’s in hell? He is? We have confirmation of this? Somebody knows this? Without any doubt? And his pre-publication detractors once again took him to task. And again, they were badly wrong – in my view, and in the view of (here) virtually the entire Christian tradition. Remember Johann Heidegger from a couple of posts back? He was the Reformed writer who...

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A call for conceptual clarity about conceptual clarity

(A title of which Doyeweerd would have been proud…) The collection Analytic Theology (OUP, 2009; ed. by Oliver Crisp and Mike Rea) contains several excellent and entertaining pieces, clustered around a claim that theologians ought to be attentive to the turn to explication of core Christian doctrines by analytic philosophers of religion. The claim seems to me a necessary one; as Thomas McCall puts it elsewhere ‘[s]ome theologians are surprised to learn that theological issues are under consideration at all in the analytic community, while other theologians are skeptical – to say that they are dubious that any good could come out of Notre Dame is to put it mildly.’ (Whose Trinity? Which Monotheism? (Eerdmans, 2010; p.1). For me, ever since...

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Polanus on interpreting Scripture

‘The interpretation of H. Scripture is the exposition (explicatio) of its true sense and use, arranged in clear words (verbis perspicuis instituta), to the glory of God and the edification of the church.’ Even in my inelegant translation, that’s not a bad opening gambit. The (long…) section ends with a paragraph ‘on the use of H. Scripture for consolation’: ‘…therefore however grave the evil, so great and certain is the good set against it, that it is an effective remedy for sorrow. A most beautiful example (exemplum pulcherrinendum) is Isa. 41:26 ff. …’ The words are from Amandus Polanus’s Syntagma Theologiae Christianae; it was never going to be a big seller, even in theological terms. The...

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