The God of the Philosophers
The Personal Weblog of Edward W. Farrell   
The God of the Philosophers Thursday, July 8, 2010
In a recent and characteristically challenging blog post, Bill Vallicella looks at Pascal's epiphany regarding the God of Abraham as captured in his memorial, and a further discussion by Martin Buber on the opposition of the God of the Philosophers and the God of Abraham.  Bill concludes (in part):

It is therefore bogus to oppose the God of the philosophers to the God of Abraham, et al.  There is and can be only one God.  But there are different approaches to this one God.  By my count, there are four ways of approaching God:  by reason, by faith, by mystical experience, and by our moral sense.  To employ a hackneyed metaphor, if there are four routes to the summit of a mountain, it does not follow that there are four summits, with only one of them being genuine, the others being merely immanent to their respective routes.

I see no flaws in Bill's logic but he doesn't address the flip side to his "different approaches to this one God," which is revelation: God's approach to us.  It is a relatively straightforward matter to see where an exercise of reason can lead one to "that than which no greater can be conceived;" it is more difficult to see how reason may lead to Jesus Christ: God born in the flesh, crucified and resurrected. It's to this revealed God that Pascal refers with his "God of Abraham." This is the God that flooded the world to wash out a dynasty of sin, made a covenant with the Jews, spoke to Moses and the prophets, and was crucified in the flesh so that, once and for all, none who would follow him would lack salvation. "That than which no greater can be conceived" may indeed refer to this God, but it scarcely touches on His character and the depth of His relationship to mankind as revealed in the Old and New Testaments.  So while the "God of the Philosophers" and the "God of Abraham" are not exactly opposed, their rhetorical opposition isn't necessarily an error: they certainly speak to different worlds.

The distinctiveness of the two "worlds" has a been a dominant feature of Lutheran and reformed theology as compared to scholasticism (perhaps due to early Protestant misunderstandings), but certainly it is a feature of all Christian tradition.

Related Web Links
Pascal and Buber on the God of the Philosophers
Pascal's Memorial
What Luther Got Wrong
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