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Discussion 1 to Talk Back 111
A Reply to the Dilemma of God's Existence

by: PsiCop

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Mr Kontoh suggests that any uncertainty about God’s existence can’t be genuine, because we can all have “knowledge” of God. Or at least, that’s what I’m taking from it. In the midst of his argument he makes a logical leap that doesn’t make sense any other way:

In our personal relationship, you cannot have faith in someone without knowing him or her, and that knowing is knowledge. Therefore your dilemma as to whether God exists or not is not genuine.

So my comments are based on the above assumption.

Mr Kontoh says faith in God and knowledge of God are linked. But most Christian sects and denominations don’t teach this. They teach that “faith” is what’s needed, and that “knowledge” is not. There’s even a strict definition of faith embedded in Christianity:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Note, this definition does not read, as Mr Kontoh seems to think:

Now faith is the assurance of things known, the conviction of one’s certain knowledge.

The rest of Hebrews 11 is a list of Old Testament figures who did what they did based on their “faith” in something of which they didn’t have any sure “knowledge.”

In a lot of ways, traditional Christianity rejects sure “knowledge” of the divine in favor of “faith” based on “hope” in the “unseen.” This goes back to classical times, when the Gnostic form Christianity was common. Gnostic Christians believed they had sure, personal knowledge of the Ineffable Divine. Other sorts of Christians … who preferred “faith” to “knowledge,” and established foundation of what later became traditional Christianity … were literally incensed at this. They considered it arrogant and profane to presume one could “know” God. Some of them penned long diatribes against Gnosticism, based precisely on this complaint; e.g. St Irenaeus, who wrote ελεγχος και ανατροπη της ψευδωνυμου γνωσεως (that translates literally as “Elenchus and overturning of the pseudonymous knowledge.”).

These days it’s not uncommon to hear some Christians, especially of the Protestant fundamentalist variety, talk about their “knowledge” of God, their certainty of his existence, and their “personal relationship” with him. What’s ironic is that, while their religion ostensibly is based on a strict and literal reading of the Bible … including Hebrews 11 … this kind of talk is very similar to how classical Gnostic Christians spoke.

Note, I’m not accusing either Mr Kontoh or Christian fundamentalists of being Gnostics themselves. They aren’t. Fundamentalist Christianity is its own distinct form of that religion, a product of its history to be sure, but not quite the same as any other that came before it. (Yes, even though its adherents consider themselves to believe what Jesus and his apostles taught; it’s actually very different from that.) What I’m pointing out is the irony of the situation: Fundamentalist Christianity is a modern incarnation of classical “orthodox,” anti-Gnostic Christianity, yet it uses the language of Gnosticism.
In any event, aside from some movements such as Gnosticism, all of the Abrahamic religions are constructed on the presumption that God is above humanity, beyond human “knowledge,” and can only be understood by “faith.” Mr Kontoh’s claim that can be “known” by everyone, flies in the face of this ancient tradition.

In any event, Mr Kontoh’s insistence that the question of God’s existence is not “genuine,” is false — and quite obviously so: If knowledge of God’s existence and nature were as easy to obtain as he claims, there would not be hundreds of religions in the world, and religions like Christianity wouldn’t themselves be fractured into hundreds of sects and denominations. Quite the opposite is true: God’s existence and nature are so elusive and uncertain that people are able to construct any kind of God they wish to create, based on what they wish to believe about him/her/it. Clearly, that’s what they’ve done.

TALK BACK 111 >

References

Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies