Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Apologetics of Transcendence

My essay, "The Apologetics of Transcendence," appears in First Things' "On the Square." An excerpt:

When the anonymous Christian in Nicholas of Cusa’s dialogue “On the Hidden God” is asked by his pagan interlocutor to explain the difference between Christians and pagans, he answers that followers of Christ know they cannot comprehend the divine. This seems a strange mode of apologetics, one particularly unsuited for the age of science. Any strategy that would identify ignorance as a basic element of the Christian faith (indeed, as its specific difference) could hardly counter the claim that science has revealed the basic structures of nature, rendering the “God hypothesis” obsolete.
But Nicholas of Cusa does not advance a nescient faith, and understood correctly, the claim made in this dialogue is well suited to counter atheism’s scientific imperialism. Cusa’s critique of paganism could be brought to bear on the pretensions of scientism by showing that, first, naturalistic accounts cannot in principle achieve more than accidental, partial truths about even the natural world, and second, that the God that Christians worship is not the kind of being that could be crowded out by scientific accounts because of the ontological difference between God and the world.

Read the rest here.