Can We Talk About God?

Posted: November 30, 2012 by Dillon in Apologetics
Tags: , , , , ,

I finally have a spare moment to sit and share some of what I learned from the EPS Apologetics conference I attended about two weeks ago.  The most challenging part has been figuring out how to manage some of this information into a single entry; I could honest talk for hours about what I learned.  The first keynote speaker was Dr. Angus Menuge talking about standard objections skeptics raise regarding God.  Specifically, he referred to the Anthropomorphic Challenge, and the Transcendent Concepts Challenge.  I’m only going to look at the Transcendent Concepts Challenge right now in the interest of keeping the post relatively short.

When boiled down, the Transcendent Concepts Challenge (TCC) is a way of stating that humans are limited in what they can talk about, based on their nature.  Common examples usually sound like this, “Humans are temporal [bound by time] so it is impossible to understand something eternal like a god.”  The skeptic’s claim is that human beings can’t talk about a concept that is alien to the life of a human.  At first, this challenge has some merit.  If I’m not a football player, then I can’t adequately describe what it’s like to be a football player.  However, the claim doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

The TCC likes to claim that because we are bound by time and are contingent (not logically required) that we can’t understand something that is eternal and necessary.  These transcendent concepts (hence the name) are too much to handle.  Except for the glaring problem: human beings do have transcendent concepts!  If you’re a little confused, let me explain.

  1. Skeptics assume that God is utterly unlike us
  2. Christians claim to be made in the image of God
  3. Christians are like God, though an imperfect version
  4. Because of this, Christians can speak of God analogically
Analogically just means using analogy, which is a very common part of how we talk.  Remember, power of thought is not defined by the physical dimensions of the thinker.  A human, being much smaller than a galaxy, can still think of and imagine a galaxy.  Three transcendent concepts  that a skeptic would say a person can’t understand are eternity, infinity, and perfection.
Eternity: We already know that people can make judgments about eternity!  Everyone is capable of making judgments about the passage of time (that wasn’t very long ago, wow the time flew by, etc), which implies a point of reference beyond time.  If we truly were incapable of understanding the concept of eternity, then we would not be able to make any distinctions about the passage of time.  This point of reference beyond time is often attributed to the soul.Infinity: This one is relatively easy.  Mathematicians define infinite sets every day.  In fact, in order to understand something finite, you need a counter-view.  We also know that infinity is an idea readily grasped in many eastern traditions.Perfection: Perfection really goes hand in hand with infinity.  Something that is perfect is without any flaws or blemishes, essentially infinitely good or whole.  Pascal once said, “Man’s greatness comes from knowing he is wretched.”  Without an idea of perfection, it wouldn’t be possible to understand depravity or wretchedness.  You can’t understand flaws without understanding perfection.

When all of this information is taken together, it is easy to see that humans, being made in the image of God, are perfectly capable of understanding transcendent qualities about God, thus refuting the TCC.

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