People Wouldn’t Have Invented This

I was reading a book today and one of the things that the book kept on saying as a way of bolstering its point was that no one would invent the concept that was being talked about. This was, of course, not helped by the fact that people did in fact invent that. Saying that an idea is so unlikely that people would not invent it is by no means a reasonable position to make in the sort of world that we live in. After all, a Japanese man invented a religion that was based on claiming that he was able to fly through his mastery of yoga. Compared to that, no dogma is too weird to be invented by human beings.

One wonders why it is that people are under such pains to argue that an idea is too nonsensical or odd or weird to be invented by people. It is easy enough to want the authority that an idea springs from God and not from man. But given what mankind can create–and examples can be multiplied indefinitely–it is a difficult argument to make that no idea is too irrational or confused to be created by people. There are all kinds of ideas that make no rational or logical sense that have been created by mankind when it comes to matters of religion or politics that touch what is most important to people. To be sure, there are also plenty of cases where people create ideas in order to simplify or rationalize what goes on and thus twist reality, but there are also plenty of cases where people make things deliberately mysterious or complicated from a simpler reality as a way of making some aspect of supposed truth more obscure and remote from ordinary people and their capacities of understanding.

How, then, do we demonstrate if an idea springs from God or mankind? This is an exceedingly challenging matter. It is essentially an effort in intellectual history, where we look at how an idea was formed and written about and argued and solidified into dogma, looking at the written works that we have where this process takes place. When we look at the intellectual history of the ancient past it can be a bit difficult to see where this process begins, but we often have some sort of evidence that a conversation or debate between different worldviews and different ideas is going on. When it comes to the arguments about the nature of God and Christ in the early Christian church, there are a lot of works that have survived, if sometimes only in the quotes of the opponents of those who wrote them, that demonstrate the sort of debates that were going on about matters that seem arcane and esoteric to many of us in the present day. Similarly, we are even aware of the debates between polytheism and ethnical monotheism in the ancient near east from the Bible as well as documents that have survived from places likes Ugarit and other sites in Mesopotamia. These sources demonstrate that there was a genuine debate recorded in poetry and other writings that demonstrates the conflict that has always existed between competing worldviews.

To demonstrate whether these ideas spring from mankind or God is by no means an easy task. Those who are engaged in such a task as examining the intellectual history of the disputes of the ancient world would do well to maintain a sense of humility when it comes to examining such materials and comment honestly on where they find particular ideas and views to be first defended or attacked. At that point whether such matters spring from God or man can at least be placed in their proper context. There is a great deal that people form in their own minds as a way of attempting to understand God and the universe. That which is the process of our own reasoning and thinking process is routinely understood to spring from God in the thinking of many people, and it is by no means clear that this is an accurate understanding much of the time.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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