Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Big Question

When I was about 9 or 10, my father bought me a book about the theological implications of the Great Pumpkin and related issues. No doubt he wanted to help ensure that my theological education was not going to be informed solely by the publishers of a magazine called The Plain Truth. The book was a paperback, entitled “The Gospel According to Peanuts”. I remember that the publisher was Fontana Books, but I don’t recall the author’s name.

Most of the points the author was trying to make went way above my head, but I did enjoy the cartoons. Amusingly enough – and typical of the “put the cart before the horse” approach that sometimes helped to make my upbringing such fun – I had never even heard of the world-famous Charles M. Schulz cartoons before, so I actually discovered the world of “Charlie Brown and friends” for the first time in a book about theology!

By an amazing coincidence, one of my all-time favourite Peanuts cartoons also happens to be one that deals with the subject of theology, although its implications go much further than that.

It’s the one where Charlie Brown discovers that Snoopy is writing a book about theology and says, “I hope you have a good title.” Snoopy’s reply is priceless: “I have the perfect title: Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?

It’s a good question, isn’t it?


Anonymous said...

I am offended by the treatment of The Great Pumpkin in religious arguments. I believe in The Great Pumpkin and those who do not are simply unwilling to acknowledge the clear evidence.

Nice post!

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

Actually, everyone is "wrong". A man named Kurt Godel developed something called the Incompleteness theorem in the thirties(1930s). His theorem states: "In any consistent axiomatic formulation of number theory, there exists undecideable propositions".

In a system based on axioms, which is consistent, there still exists undecideable propositions.
Not only that, but there exists an infinity of undecideable propostions in any axiomatc system!

What does this have to do with the bible?

In any pursuit of absolute truth, no matter how formal or complex our body of knowledge, there will exist an infinity of possible truths to pursue within any one system.

IOW, if we start out with one religion, we will end with an infinity of religions, all related, all seeking to understand and correctly apply the truth.

The apostle Paul made a paralle statement to this in Romans 8:7. He wrote that the carnal(natural, fleshy, biological) mind is enmity against God and cannot be subject to his laws. This would produce two basic results:
1. No one can claim authority as God's representative, since no mind can be subject to God's laws.
2. Any attempt to do so will result in an infinite splintering or speciation of ideas about God.

Godel's theorem simply confirms that there is no finite, rational process to describe truth, which means that no religion, however formal or complex, can be THE truth.

Paul confirms this logic in Romans 8:29-30, Romans 9:16-20, and Ephesians 2:8-9.

There exists no decision procedure, no "agorithm" y which we may proceed from "here" to "God".

Not only can there be no human religion that exists "under God", but there can be no nation "under God".

IOW, each person is free from all human authority structures and need not join any church or religion.

Jesus confirmed this in Matthew 24:23, when he warned against false "Christs" in the "end time":

"Then if any man says to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not".

The truth actually does set us free! There is no process by which any person can control truth or demonstrate it in such a way as to control others.

The Third Witness said...

Thank you for that thought-provoking comment, Anonymous. I don’t recall ever seeing these ideas linked quite like that before, and I’m not at all sure that I’ve grasped your argument in its entirety at this stage. I’ll try and think this through in greater depth, but here are a couple of spontaneous reactions:

I must admit I find your proposition that “everyone is wrong” psychologically compelling. But if you’re right about that, then doesn’t that mean that you’re wrong, too? Or is that part of the point you were making? (I have always taken the scope of Snoopy’s question as being very wide-ranging; if you were using “wrong” in a narrower sense, please bear with me, as I may have constructed some associations that you never intended!)

Another scripture you might have quoted is Titus 1:12–13, where Paul effectively lays the groundwork for Gödel’s theorem by articulating the Epimenides paradox.

I wish it occurred to more people that they might be wrong. Even as a child at school, it occurred to my wife to ask: “How do you know?” when presented with a “fact” of mathematics that “everyone” seemed to take for granted.