Two Kinds of God and Sloppy Argumentation

“Some contemporary writers zealous for God’s unrivaled authority have expressed concern about natural law thinking, supposing that it presents a potential competitor with God. But whether this might be true in a kind of universe where God was a finite, Zeus-like, immaterial extra-terrestrial, and natural law some impersonal surd structuring the universe without an explanation for its existence, it is certainly not true in the theology and cosmology of classical theism.”

This is one thing that bugs me about some discussions concerning religion. People often equate gods like Zeus, Marduk, or Thor with the God of the Bible. But where the former gods are finite–though extraordinarily powerful and relatively inhuman–immaterial extraterrestrials, who exist within the universe and are subject to its laws, the God of the Bible (and the creators proposed by other monotheist faiths) transcends the universe and its laws, standing outside it, and in fact creating and sustaining it.

In other words, God is not Cthulhu, mighty and inscrutable, but ultimately subject to other superhuman forces and the passage of time. He’s not on top simply because he’s got more power, whatever form that power takes. God’s authority comes from the fact that he is author and creator, the one who established the universe and its laws, and everything in it. We belong to him because we came out of his head, and out of his spoken word, not because he’s big and can smash us.

Atheists are free to disbelieve in such a God, but to equate such a transcendent Creator with Cthulhu or Thor and so dismiss him is sloppy argumentation. It’s a category error. You’re talking about a totally different sort of being. To equate the two may work as a joke among already convinced atheists, or as an insult directed at Christians–and other believers in a creator–but it doesn’t work as logic. Disproving one is not necessarily to disprove the other, and to disbelieve in one is not necessarily to disbelieve in the other. Atheists do not simply “believe in one less god” than Christians, they disbelieve in a totally different kind of God.

The quote above is from an article on natural law in the Bible over at The Calvinist International. The site is a great resource for people interested in natural law or historic two kingdoms theology, as well as other topics of interest to Evangelical armchair and professional theologians.