So now we find we don’t even know what theology is. Or that maybe we don’t. Or that maybe we know what it is in some places but not in others, and that it may depend on whether the department has changed its name or not.
Names have a lot to do with it, in fact. I’ve always assumed that theology was a different sort of discipline from comparative religion, history of religion, sociology of religion and the like. Atheists and secularists can perfectly well study the latter items, but I’ve always taken it for granted that the first would be something of a bad fit. By definition. That only theists can be theologians. But apparently that’s not a universally accepted fact.
But theology does apparently start from the assumption that there are good reasons for believing in God, for instance the evidence of the natural world. That’s why I say names have a lot to do with it. Because I can see thinking there is at least a question about how the natural world got here, and why there is something rather than nothing; and I can see thinking there must be or should be an X that caused it all (though of course I would then wonder what created the X, and get stuck, as I always do – but never mind that for now). But I have serious difficulties with calling it God. God is a person. God is a guy’s name, and the guy is a character with specific qualities and a particular history. God is a proper name the way Allah is a name and Jhwh is a name and Zeus is a name. God is a local, parochial, familiar kind of fella, quite human but more powerful. He’s not the kind of thing that could create the cosmos – any more than Huckleberry Finn could have created it, or than Emma Woodhouse, or M. Homais, or Werther, or Hedda Gabler could have. We might as well all think our cats created the cosmos. It’s just too local, and too human, and too literary.
But that’s not what’s meant by God, God is the First Cause, or the Unmoved Mover, or another name for the Big Bang. But, one, no he isn’t. You can’t use the same name for two completely different things like that – it causes hopeless confusion. Like an underground map with all the stations put in wrong. You’d be getting out at Turnham Green when you wanted Belsize Park. And, two, if that is what God means, why name it God, why not just stick with the Big Bang, or with ‘whatever made all this happen’? Or X? Since nobody knows the answer to those questions – since whatever explanation is given we can always say something like ‘yes but what about just before that?’ or ‘yes but where did all this happen?’ – what is gained by labeling it God? I really don’t see it.
Especially if there is an X that made it all happen (as in some sense there is, though what that sense is, God only knows – well not him, but X, or gravity, or something) then it’s a pretty, well, exotic X. It’s not our kind of thing. Not friendly, or consoling, or helpful, or something to sing hymns to. Write poetry about, possibly, but sing to, no. It could be just…a lot of code. Probably is. We are, so maybe it is. Just code. Not Mind, not Conscious, certainly not feeling. It doesn’t love us, or anything else. Or it’s just something like gravity or energy. It’s not…a guy. Not even a very very big very very clever one. It just isn’t. And what people think when they hear the word ‘God’ is definitely a person. Not some code. Am I right? Theology doesn’t mean codeology. Theologians don’t think of themselves as students of code or of the Big Bang. So why call it God? So as not to have to make a whole lot of new name tapes, I suppose.