Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Game of Chess with Satan

The story of modernity, including the rise of science, is one of deeply religious people attempting to find solid ground for their beliefs and facing some unforeseen consequences. An example of this can be seen in the work of Thomas Browne (1605-82), an English Baconian philosopher.

“More of these no man hath known than myself, which I confess I conquered, not in a martial posture, but on my knees.” Amongst these are such questions as, how did the creatures from the Ark, starting as they did from Mount Ararat, get disseminated over all the countries of the world, in spite of the estranging seas? Gold does not turn to powder under high temperatures, so how can Moses have calcined the Golden Calf? Manna is an actual plant, flourishing in Calabria and formerly gathered in Arabia; where then was the miracle in the days of Moses?” Similarly, there is such a thing as “Secret Sympathy”, and may not the Brazen Serpent of Moses have healed the people thus, without a miracle? And might not Elijah have kindled the fire on God’s altar by means of naphtha – “for that inflammable substance yields not easily unto Water, but flames in the Arms of its Antagonist”? In this manner Satan “takes a hint of infidelity from our studies, and by demonstrating a naturality in one way, makes us mistrust a miracle in another”.

“Thus the Devil played at Chess with me, and yielding a Pawn, thought to gain a Queen of me, taking advantage of my honest endeavours; whilst I labored to raise the structure of my Reason, he strived to undermine the edifice of my Faith.” (Basil Willey, The Seventeenth Century Background pg. 65-66)


Garnel Ironheart said...

You're thinking too hard about this.

How did the animals get from the ark to Australia? Why not ask how they all fit in there in the first place?

The same God who created the laws of nature suspended them when necessary to carry out His plans. One cannot explain this to a rationalist but for the religious soul who knows that sometimes the laws of nature reign supreme and sometimes they don't, it's not a stretch.

Miss S. said...

deeply religious people attempting to find sold ground


Izgad said...

Miss. S.

Thank you as usual.


This was Thomas Browne and his difficulties that we are dealing with here.

As to your claim that God would suspend the laws of nature and your willingness to use it as a trump card against all rationalist challenges, this is ruled out by Ockham’s razor, which we must hold on to for dear life if we are to avoid falling off a cliff into insanity. Ockham’s razor does not allow us to bend over backwards and have God pulling off pointless miracles when there is a workable naturalistic explanation.

dcmcmurtry said...

i thought he sat in the heavens and did as he pleased?

The Bray of Fundie said...

very eloquent. But in the 21st century Satan has declared checkmate and it only requires a couple of moves.

The Bray of Fundie said...

As for Mr. Browne, he sounds like a sincere mevakesh,

As Lord Tennyson put it:

"There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me,
than in half the creeds."

Chris said...

I have that Tennyson quote on my Facebook. It's a good one!


Are you really willing to argue that God suspended the laws of nature to get all those animals in the ark? So what, it was like the TARDIS? Bigger on the inside than on the outside??