Christianity and Paradox: Critical Studies in Twentieth- Century Theology

By Ronald W. Hepburn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
SCEPTICISM AND THE NATURALLY RELIGIOUS MIND

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T HE starting-point of our whole study was the familiar fact that religious language is a language of paradox. Some of the paradoxes lie open to the view of every user or observer of religious discourse. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but it is God that works in us. God is one God; but a unity-in-Trinity. He is closer than breathing; but he is in no place. We pray to him today; but he is outside time. Other paradoxes unfold themselves fully only if the concept of God is submitted to logical analysis. But at whatever level they appear, the pervasiveness of paradox cannot be denied.

We have not attempted to reconcile the paradoxes in this study. We have taken a different approach, namely to inquire whether there are ways open to us whereby we may accept the paradoxes if we have to do so, but without abandoning belief. Two ways of doing this suggested themselves to us. The first was the way of ostensive definition: if God can be singled out, identified, what matters it though our talk about him stammers in paradoxes? The second way was the way of taking 'God' as an explanatory concept, and to that extent a meaningful concept, justifying its place in the language, although still enigmatic in numerous other respects.

Our results have been negative. We have found neither logically reliable procedures for identifying God nor for invoking him

-186-

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