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This harmonious monistic vision was shattered by the God of the Bible. Here was a God who was so far exalted above the world of man and of nature which he had created, a God who had so comprehensively absorbed in his person all power, all creativity, all truth, all goodness, that man is like a creature bereft, a lost soul, who appears to be separated from his God by an abyss. This would have been a stark dichotomy indeed had God not shown compassion and revealed himself equally as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a God who speaks to ordinary mortals, relieving man of his isolation, guiding him to an ethical life of justice, mercy and holiness, and thus, as it were, throwing across a lifeline over the abyss. Here in essence is the paradox: God   is transcendent, mysterious, exalted; and yet God is also intimate, compassionate and morally engaged: all-powerful and yet all-loving. 

The idea that God is sovereign over heaven and earth is the ultimate descending idea. But the paradox at the heart of the theist vision of God calls forth two vital principles that are absent from the mythological framework, namely historical revelation and redemptive covenant; and these two principles in turn powerfully intimate certain key ascending themes.

It is highly significant that for the theist, history rather than nature becomes the scene of man's encounter with the divine; no longer are the gods mediated through the sun, the wind, the trees and the stars or through physical objects of worship; mediation rather takes the form of the memorialisation and exploration of an unchanging revelation that is understood to have happened in the past, but is kept alive and transmitted through a tradition. This has two important consequences: first of all, the deanimation of nature, now stripped of its myths, its magic and its mysteries, will eventually pave the way for a scientific apprehension of the natural world — conceived as an orderly space — which will allow generalisations of cause and effect. Secondly, and critically, God's apparent withdrawal from the world, his decision to reveal himself and then to hide himself, creates an autonomous space for man to exercise his freedom. In the mythological world, the actions of the gods had to be seen to be believed, but for the theist the action of God in the world has to be believed in order to be seen. Faith is not merely the passive expression of submission to an inescapable fate, but becomes an active commitment and a positive choice: to follow the way of the righteous as opposed to the way of the wicked (Psalm 1), a demanding undertaking, forever fraught with the back-sliding temptations of sin and infidelity.

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Mine's a Newt
July 2nd, 2011
10:07 PM
I said, "He appears to have written as if he [Bacon] believed in a god that was the minimum necessary to allow him some freedom to observe the world as it is, without getting murdered for heresy, especially atheism." The text you cite is an example of what I meant; such statements of faith were necessary to stop him getting arrested and (as happened to other atheists) executed. I didn't say Bacon was an atheist. Since he was not free to say so if he was, we don't know one way or another. What we do know is that his philosophy is utterly unlike Aquinas and Mainonides, and posits a world that can and should be observed and explained without reference to gods.

March 16th, 2011
10:03 PM
Mine's A Newt Bacon didn't really believe in God then? You have read his essay on "atheism"?: For none deny, there is a God, but those, for whom it maketh that there were no God. It appeareth in nothing more, that atheism is rather in the lip, than in the heart of man, than by this; that atheists will ever be talking of that their opinion, as if they fainted in it, within themselves, and would be glad to be strengthened, by the consent of others

Mine's A Newt
March 6th, 2011
11:03 AM
YHWH, the god Christians believe in, is imaginary like all the other gods humans have invented, and only relevant to the world we live in to the extent that it's believers have political and cultural power. But in particular, there's no such thing as a "god of Maimonides, Aquinas and Bacon", because Bacon is very much the odd one out. Bacon didn't believe in a god in the same way, or of the same kind, as Maimonides and Aquinas. He appears to have written as if he believed in a god that was the minimum necessary to allow him some freedom to observe the world as it is, without getting murdered for heresy, especially atheism, by religious zealots. Maimonides and Aquinas, on the other hand, believed in, or at least argued for, a theological god, one that empowered theologians.

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