Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AND THE DECISION IS . . .

Missing on Stephen Prothero’s list of writers who think that God is One is John Hick. In fact, nowhere in his book God Is Not One is there even a mention of Hick.

This is strange. For of all those who were, or could have been, on this list, it is Hick who has given the question the most and the closest attention. Hick it is who gives one of the strongest arguments for what he calls the “hypothesis” that “the response to a transcendent reality has taken the bewildering plurality of forms that history records.” Hick it is who, in 1986-87 gave the prestigious Gifford Lectures.

Regardless. Even when we compare Prothero’s miniature arguments with Hick’s hypothesis, it seems to me that the burden of proof remains with Hick. I’m more interested in what Hick would have to say about Prothero’s arguments than vice versa.

Let’s look once more at Prothero’s arguments. The first two, as I said in the last post, are based on analogies. Any such argument must give reasons for thinking that an analogy is spot on; Prothero doesn’t give these reasons.

The third argument, which pits the wisdom of the ordinary devotee against that of the mystic or the philosopher religion, is similar to what logicians call the fallacious argumentum ad populum, or “appeal to the people.” It needs to be expanded in order to be evaluated.

As for the fourth argument, which assumes that the God-is-One thesis embraces religious tolerance, is that there wouldn’t be a need to tolerate another religion if it were at base like our own. But, we wonder, what if this assumption isn’t made by many of those who urge mutual tolerance among the religions? Presumably, the argument doesn’t hold.

Prothero’s fifth argument is as obvious as it is strong. “The characters of these gods,” he says, “differs widely.”

And that, as I’ll show in the next few posts, is the decisive argument for the proposition that God is not one.

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