God is Strange: Particularity & Plausibility

More strange than Christianity itself is how it ever became normal. Seriously, it’s pretty odd. A few years ago, for example, I finally realized how not-normal the Eucharist is. Eat His body & drink His blood? That being said, oddness is not a reason to reject the elements, the Church, the Faith, or the belief that Jesus is God.

The Eucharist is a particular sacrament for the remembrance of a particular event for the worship of a particular god who has saved a particular people. A God & religion that is knit with particularities tends to scare people, for particularities would seem to undermine our sense that God has universal interests–that is, that God has an interest in all people & all things. The response to this fear is often to conceive of God as a deity who can be called upon by any name, worshiped in any fashion, and who can reject no one for any reason (though most people would grant God an exception for Hitler). Herein lies the problem: this god-concept is a faceless, spineless, uninteresting god who hasn’t any principles–and this god we would also reject, for we also have a hunch that God ought to be the most principled of all! To make God fit into everyone’s mold is to strip Him of what make Him Him. In a tragic twist, the god who is anything to anybody is, in fact, no god at all: he is nothing.

If God is neither everything nor nothing, is something and not other things, then He is particular. And so I must ask this: What if God really is particular?:

  • What if God has a name (and not other names)?
  • What if God has principles (and not other principles)?
  • What if God has desires (and not other desires)?
  • What if God works in certain ways (and not other ways)?
  • What if God created all things out of no things, permitted the fall of man to sin & death, inaugurated an intricate salvation-history, took for Himself a nation in order to save all nations, incarnated Himself into the world, died on a cross by the hands of people from His chosen nation in a sick twist of irony, and resurrected Himself from the dead in order that He might resurrect the universe?

Indeed, that is what I believe is the story of our universe. The sum of all my reasoning & faith leads me to believe that Christianity has the greatest explanatory power, as strange & particular as it is. There is a case to made–one that I am much persuaded by–that the innumerable particularities of the Christian faith are what make it that much more plausible. Allow me to introduce two smarter men to make the case better than I could.

First, Dr. John Stackhouse, whose interview below spawned this post:

So it seems to me that Christians really need to remember just how odd our beliefs are if we have any hope of conveying our beliefs to others… [but] I wouldn’t want to valorize the strangeness of Christian beliefs as if that somehow ironically speaks to their truth. No, I think the truth is about truth. Like, does this in fact give us a satisfactory explanation to all the things that need explaining? Weirdly enough, I think Christianity does.” — Dr. John Stackhouse

Later in the video, Stackhouse uses a handy lock-and-key analogy, of which I assume he borrowed from G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy“:

For the more complicated seems the coincidence, the less it can be a coincidence. If snowflakes fell in the shape, say, of the heart of Midlothian, it might be an accident. But if snowflakes fell in the exact shape of the maze at Hampton Court, I think one might call it a miracle. It is exactly as of such a miracle that I have since come to feel of the philosophy of Christianity… This is why the faith has that elaboration of doctrines and details which so much distresses those who admire Christianity without believing in it. When once [sic] one believes in a creed, one is proud of its complexity, as scientists are proud of the complexity of science. It shows how rich it is in discoveries. If it is right at all, it is a compliment to say that it’s elaborately right. A stick might fit a hole or a stone a hollow by accident. But a key and a lock are both complex. And if a key fits a lock, you know it is the right key.¹

drums & bums,

¹ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 125-6.

P.S. Thanks to the Emerging Scholars Network for bringing this video to my attention and to Dr. Stackhouse for doing this short-but-great interview!


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