‘After Disbelief’ by Anthony Kronman

‘After Disbelief’ by Anthony Kronman

Is there something outside of time? Is it still intellectually responsible to believe in God?

Anthony Kronman proposes to resolve these and other issues once and for all in his new book, After Disbelief: On disenchantment, disappointment, eternity and joy. The God of Kronman is completely original. God is, says Kronman, “the explanatory ground for everything that happens in time” (129). Like Kronman’s 2017 debate with Tim Keller, the book is a reminder that there is a broad middle ground between religion and atheism. Its pages invite readers to evaluate whether God is a transcendent Creator or a deity. created—at least in part— in our own image.

idea of ​​eternity

According to Kronman, a professor of law at Yale University and author of end of education, humans are different from other animals in the awareness of their mortality. If I know that I will die, I have already made a distinction between what exists in time and what does not. If I can recognize something unnatural or limiting in the concept of time, I can conceive of the idea of ​​eternity.

After Disbelief: On Disenchantment, Disappointment, Eternity, and Joy

anthony kronmann

After Disbelief: On Disenchantment, Disappointment, Eternity, and Joy

anthony kronmann

Yale University Press. 184 pages.

Many people of faith believe that the meaning of life depends on our connection to some kind of eternal order. Atheists ridicule this belief as childish superstition.

In this insightful and wise book, Anthony Kronman offers an alternative to these two entrenched positions, arguing that neither addresses the complexities of the human condition. We can never reach God, as religion promises, but neither can we give up the desire to do so. We are condemned by our nature to set ourselves goals that we can neither abandon nor meet, but which paradoxically we can get closer to if we try. The human condition is one of inevitable disappointment tempered by moments of joy.

Yale University Press. 184 pages.

Christians can fully agree with Kronman’s confession of eternity, which is rare for a person raised on anti-religious and anti-God dogmas. He goes so far as to say that the longing for eternity is “a constitutive element of our humanity, not an avoidable threat to it, a characteristic, not a mistake” (16). With Kronman, Christians affirm that God “has set eternity in the heart of man” (Eccl. 3:11).

The idea of ​​eternity, Kronman says, fuels our quest for science, justice, and love. Because we can imagine what perfect justice looks like, we are wired to pursue it. However, due to our short lives, our goals are never fully realized and perfect ideals are never attainable, leaving us in a state of what Kronman calls “profound disappointment” (67).

Road to Athens and Jerusalem

Humanity, Kronman argues, has dealt with this “profound disappointment” in two fundamentally different ways: the way of Athens and the way of Jerusalem. The Athenian philosophers saw the outside world as inherently intelligible: given the right circumstances and education, a person could fully understand the world during his lifetime.

The road to Jerusalem is characterized by epistemic humility. The world is infinitely intelligible: finite created beings can never comprehend the world to the extent that the infinite Creator can. This can cause disappointment, but it is resolved with the promise of union with the Creator in the afterlife. A person of faith still works to grow in the knowledge of truth and still seeks justice, but has the comfort that these longings will ultimately be fulfilled in the presence of the Creator who put those longings in our hearts in the first place.

The idea of ​​eternity, Kronman says, fuels our quest for science, justice, and love.

For Kronman, these two paths are elaborate, and insufficient, ways of explaining “deep disappointment as part of the human condition from which there is no escape” (101). Rather than dismiss both approaches, however, Kronman seeks to synthesize them. Like the pagan Aristotle, Kronman admits that the world is inherently intelligible, and therefore God cannot be a being that blocks a person’s search for knowledge. However, like the Christian Isaac Newton, Kronman admits that the world is infinitely intelligible—and therefore God cannot be fully understood in one’s life.

Dangers of ‘consumerist theology’

Incorporating ideas from Athens and ideas from Jerusalem, Kronman after disbelief it is, among other things, an exercise in consumerist theology. Taking this kind of liberty is precisely the preferred theological approach of the growing number of “spiritual but not religious”, although it masks its problematic dimensions.

This does not mean that it is not valid as an intellectual exercise. Kronman, like all of us, forms his views of him from bits and pieces of what he has read and experienced in his life and upbringing. But when it comes to theology and fundamental questions, is this the best approach? Will the truth about God be found when I curate it, drawing conclusions about existence and eternity based on my particular tastes and experiences? Or is the truth more reliably found in the humbler job of submitting to what has already been believed, confessed and established by a religious system for centuries? Is a “God” created by myself really the most satisfying?

Kronman describes his anthropology and theology as a reconciliation of opposites. His idea of ​​God is an abstract no man’s land between dogma and despair. It is a balance between her mother’s hatred of religion and her own curiosity about God (12) and at other times, as noted above, the midpoint between Jerusalem and Athens (101–2, 128).

In a sense, we should welcome the curiosity that leads someone like Kronman on a theological quest like this. Instead of dismissing God, Kronman at least tries to salvage a semblance of spirituality in a world where it’s easy to get past those old questions. He at least is willing to enter into the theological conversation, which for many today (especially those who harbor pain or resentment toward the church) is out of the question. For Christians seeking to reach unbelievers or engage in apologetics, “after unbelief” is a better starting point than “rooted unbelief.”

As much as we might want to eventually lead someone away from consumer theology (by helping them see how a God customized to my liking is unsatisfying, unreliable, and unstable), there is a sense in which consumer theology is better than no theology. It is a starting place. Fighting with God is always better than rejecting him openly.

Dangers of ‘middle ground’ theology

I admire Kronman’s desire to probe the truth of the various traditions and schools of thought he has conversed with. It is not an easy task to find the middle ground between the atheist, the Athenian philosopher and the Christian, rejecting and accepting the doctrines that one sees fit.

Still, while intellectual humility is good, and Kronman’s attempt to find a middle way between extremes is often helpful, Christians must be careful not to understand this mode of mediation as an inherent universal good. Not all questions need the “both sides” treatment, especially if one side comes from outside the body of Christ. One can affirm that all truth is God’s truth and at the same time recognize that God’s truth is often best expressed by those who know it, especially when it comes to theology.

For Christians seeking to reach unbelievers or engage in apologetics, ‘after unbelief’ is a better starting point than ‘entrenched unbelief’.

Still, there is value in listening and engaging with different sides. A Christian can try to synthesize ideas without the resulting philosophy becoming soft. We may consider alternative viewpoints or competing claims without always leading to a compromise. In fact, evangelism and apologetics in a secular and pluralistic society can benefit from Christians who display intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm for dialogue.

When Paul speaks to the Athenian philosophers on the Areopagus (Acts 17), he reasons with them and notes their “very religious” regard for the divine (v. 22) and their veneration for an “unknown god” (v. 23). The worship of him arose from the desires that the Creator placed within them so that they would find their way to him. Instead of finding the objects of his desires in created idols (which were everywhere in Athens, v. 16), however, Paul directed them to the one true God, the One who “made the world and everything in it”. he” and “does not live”. in man-made temples” (v. 24).

While Paul distinguishes the Creator and the created in his teaching, Kronman’s after disbelief it seeks to synthesize the Creator and the created by constructing a conception of God from both biblical and pagan philosophical materials. While seeking knowledge in the created realm can inspire fruitful insights and explorations about God, it should never take precedence over God’s own revelation in Scripture. And while lively speculations about God like the ones in this book are interesting and thought-provoking, ultimately they should remind us that the Bible is a theological oddity. Far from being an “unknown god” or an elusive deity, God has clearly made himself known to us in the Scriptures. This should be our primary and authoritative source as we understand who he is and who we are in relation to him.

We live in a time where the Word of God is ready to cross paths with an unbelieving world. May those who truly seek God find him through his mercy (Acts 17:27). That the church be willing to bring the light of the gospel to the questions that the world asks. And let belief follow unbelief.

Source : www.thegospelcoalition.org

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About the Author: Pierre Cohen

A person who has expertise in politics and writes articles to fill his spare time as a hobby.