How ought we think about God? (Part 1)

by Paul Gould

What is the best way to align our concept of God to the reality of God? Is there a methodology that we should use? Or, should we just “wing it” and hope for the best? What are the prospects for us arriving at the truth about God anyhow?I think that we can and do know things about God, and know them truly, even if we can’t know God exhaustively. In this post I want to share approaches that we should avoid in our attempts to model God. In my next post, I’ll share an approach to modeling God that we should employ—and approach with a rich history and much promise for us in our attempt to think accurately about the divine.

For now, let me suggest four sure-fire ways to get it wrong; four bad methods that we ought not employ in attempting to discover and fully articulate what God is like.

Bad approach #1the “purely historical” approach. This approach begins with the assumption that the concept of God is a human construction in some way. There is no objective reality/truth about God that can be known. Hence, all we can do is study man’s concept of God. As Karen Armstrong states in the introduction to her widely read A History of God: [1]

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“[T]here is no one unchanging idea contained in the world ‘God’; instead, the word contains a whole spectrum of meanings, some of which are contradictory or even mutually exclusive….religion is highly pragmatic. We shall see that it is far more important for a particular idea of God to work than for it to be logically or scientifically sound.”

This view is a kind of conventionalism—there is no truth of the matter regarding God’s nature on this view, so all we can do is model God in such a way so that it is “workable” for us. But, this is leads to relativism and thus an historical approach to the idea of God can’t be considered normative, although it is interesting as an empirical question, namely, “how have people traditionally understood God?”

Bad approach #2: the “purely Biblical” approach. We should go to the Bible, and only the Bible, for our idea of God. As I’ll make clear in my next post, we must begin with Scripture, but we shouldn’t end there if we are trying to go as far as we can in modeling God. There are two worries with this approach…


The Poached Egg ApologeticsHow ought we think about God? (Part 1) | Paul Gould



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