Suppose there were two students, A and T, each five years old. And a family friend was asked to teach them geometry. Let’s also suppose the friend was not a kindergarten teacher, but a mathematics professor from the university. Let’s say she started by introducing the concept of a line and a point. She explained that a line is a one-dimensional object that has length, but no width and no thickness. She also explained that a point is a degenerate line: A point is a line that doesn’t go anywhere. It’s length is zero.
Student A was too young to understand. He could only conceive of real points that are made of pencil lead and lines that are drawn with straight edges. He knew that every line he’d ever seen had width. The width could be made narrow, but not zero. If you make it zero, the line simply ceases to exist. As far as he could see, the same was true of a point. The perfect point was a circular dot that could be made arbitrarily small. When it gets to zero, the point no longer exists.
Student T was also too young to understand. For him lines and points actually existed in the external world. He saw a world filled with zero-dimensional points and one-dimensional lines. They were as real as any object that could he could touch, see or throw, except he’d never touched, seen or thrown a point or a line. But they were there nevertheless.
At school an argument broke out over the actual existence of points and lines. Student T insisted that points and lines have actually affected his life, sometimes in deep and consequential ways, therefore they must exist. Student A insisted that the properties of points and lines preclude their existence and a non-existent thing cannot possibly have any effect on the real world. Student A explained that student T was simply superstitious. Student T was more passionate and organized. He explained to other students how lines and points exist. He explained how the actual existence of lines and points have changed his life, giving it purpose. Other students wanted what student T had, and they soon came to understand lines and points as he did. The arguments between the T students and the A students became fistfights in the school yard. The T students organized and bullied everyone else, stifled discussion and life became a “go along to get along” proposition for many who could care less.
In the schoolyard, these days, everyone has taken sides, objectivity cannot be found and no one even thinks to ask the teacher if they have accurately understood what she taught. The A students think the teacher is an idiot. The T students think the teacher is infallible. But every now and again, some curious student, some “babe in the woods,” aware of the ongoing conflict, will come along and wonder aloud, “Why doesn’t someone just ask the teacher which one of you is right?” Ah, innocence. The child does not realize, cannot realize, how invested each side is in its current position. They cannot ask the teacher who’s right because a negative answer would be devastating. Neither A nor T wants to know the answer. Besides, each side has long since stopped asking themselves whether they might have misunderstood the teacher. Long, long since.
I would like to tell those of you in the A camp and those of you in the T camp what I think the teacher was teaching. When the teacher taught points and lines, she did not teach one important thing about geometry:
Geometry created points and lines because they were useful and not for any other reason. They are mental models. Geometry makes no statement about the actual existence of points and lines in the real world. Nor can it.
The teacher did not teach this lesson, because it’s obvious to someone at her level. Yet her failure to teach this is responsible for much of the misunderstanding. It turns out that arguments concerning the existence of points and lines are, in fact, pointless.
God is the physical world, the relationships that govern the behavior of the world, and a single all-encompassing relationship that governs all other relationships. The part of God that is not the physical world, is a concept, entirely a concept, and the Bible (our teacher) says so. Almost no one is willing to listen, so very few understand that the people who wrote the Bible understood the God they worshiped as a concept, an abstraction. When we understand the God of the Bible in this way, theism and atheism with respect to that God cease to exist. Claims of God’s existence are pointless. Claims of God’s non-existence are pointless. The existence of the God of the Bible is no longer the question. The question is, “What is the ‘God’ concept in the Bible and of what use is that concept?”
Why do so many fail to understand God as a concept? Because we project our concepts of the world out into the world and we believe those concepts exist independently in the external world. Everyone does it. We do it reflexively, automatically; we don’t even know we’re doing it. When we project the concept of wisdom into the external world, we’ve created a “god of wisdom.” When we project the concept of beauty into the external world, we’ve created a “god of beauty.” The people who wrote the Bible projected the concept “everything can be known” into the external world and called it God.
Projecting a concept into the world and giving it a name does not invalidate it. It may still be useful. The idea that one can know everything, or at least try to know everything, is a useful idea. It is worthy of worship. If you’re an atheist, you may be thinking, “I don’t project concepts into the world like that and pretend they are ‘out there.’ I don’t need that kind of crutch.” Well, let’s consider causality. Many people believe the universe is a causal machine. That belief is a projection of the idea of causality into the external world with the idea that causality actually exists “out there.” Causality is a concept. It is a mental model. It is a model of the world that exists entirely because it isuseful. We speak so casually about causality. “My wife caused my hair to fall out.” We say things like this all the time. Yet causality does not exist. We pretend it does. It is useful to behave as if it does. Yet we could easily refer to the “god of causality” without being misunderstood.
So if you want to understand the God of the Bible, that understanding can be extracted from the Book. You will find that the Bible is a book based on science and engineering. The science is ancient science and the engineering is ancient engineering, but they are real science and real engineering. In my bookFrom Adam to Noah—The Numbers Game: Why the Genealogy Puzzles of Genesis 5 and 11 Are in the Bible, I show how the Bible is based on a philosophy of testability. Find out what it means to worship the God of the Bible. It’s not what you think. Visit AdamToNoah.com.