Trying To Explain Away God

by Bill Muehlenberg

There have been plenty of attempts to explain away God. This is to be expected, since fallen man refuses to admit that he is not the centre of the universe, and is not the final arbiter of truth and error, right and wrong. But mankind in rebellion will always seek to repress their innate knowledge of God, and invent ways of explaining him away.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this 2000 years ago of course. In Romans 1:18-23 he says: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”

Or as we read in Psalm 14:1 (and 53:1): “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” So life for the non-believer is one long attempt to seek to eradicate God. Of course it can no more be done than trying to wish away the sun. It really is the attempt of fools, but they keep on trying.

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There have been plenty of ways in which atheists and naturalists have sought to explain away God. Marx for example said that religion was simply the opiate of the masses. It is like a drug, and keeps them contented with their oppression in this life, knowing a better life awaits them. It is all pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye.

Freud offered this take on the origins of religion: people are afraid of the awesome power and destructive forces of nature, so they invented a god postulate to help tame nature and to help people cope. The impersonal forces of nature are personalized and brought under control (we say there are personal spirits in the wind, the storms, etc). These animistic spirit-powers led eventually to monotheism he said.

Others, like Nietzsche and Feuerbach, said similar things. Religion is just a way humans cope with their psychological needs. Religious beliefs have come about in order to satisfy deep psychological and emotional needs. God is just a projection of man, said Feuerbach, and Nietzsche also viewed belief in God as mere wish-fulfilment…


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