Why Theism isn’t a Reasonable Philosophical Stance


By a single vote tonight the University of Dublin’s Metaphysical Society decided that Theism was not a rational philosophical position in the world of reason. As a now condemned theist it is difficult not to feel a sense of insult that just over fifty percent of my peers believe that my philosophical worldview is irrational, yet before even the first speaker took to the floor I was of the opinion that my theism is not rational and nor do I think it ought to be. The journalist and author Peter Hitchens, the brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, speaking in favour of the reasonableness of theism quoted Job:

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest, or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened, or who laid the corner stone thereof?

Job 38: 3-6

It was interesting, I thought, that he selected these sentences of Job 38 without their immediate precursor: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, ‘Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?’” Yawhew’s opening statement to the man of Uz, in what is possibly one of the finest series of soliloquys in the history of literature on the subject of human suffering, places the entire search for God outside of knowledge and reason. However much Peter may be attached to the Authorised King James Version, the Hebrew original does not imply that it is Job himself who is without knowledge. The Hebrew is quite emphatic in its בְּֽלִי־דָֽעַת (‘outside knowledge’). The reality of this deity is not subject to the faculties of reason.


Our purpose in theology is faith seeking understanding, with the search for reason in the theistic sense presupposing faith. Thus it can be said, more correctly I believe, that the reasonable philosophical stances of theism – morality and ethics and so on – are derived from what is ultimately an act of faith, and therefore outside reason and knowledge.

Knowledge of God, if we can ever call it such, must then be something transmitted by revelation – be that spiritual or incarnational – in a relationship between God and his or her creation where the act of revelation itself is always and only the prerogative of God. This line of reasoning makes redundant the very question of the reasonability of theism, and moves it into the realm of the mystical – more akin to an acceptance of love than the intelligibility of mathematical logic. Having said this, I voted against this reflection and for purely partisan reasons. One must keep the side up.


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