Went to an evening lecture at St Andrew’s church on Holborn Circus by the theologian Rev. Professor Keith Ward. Ward was, I’m pleased to say, both great fun to listen to and very reasonable about religion, despite being a born-again Christian himself.
I can’t claim to have fully understood what was quite a densely packed and closely argued half an hour, but the main focus of it was a critique of Richard Dawkins’ argument that the existence of God is fundamentally illogical on two counts: if God created the universe who created God, and simple explanations are a lot better than complex explanations and God is a very complex idea.
On the first of these, Ward countered that because God is in essence atemporal, and because the notion of a ’cause’ is temporal, the very question ‘what caused God’ is nonsensical. On the second there was a nice bit about complexity being more rather than less probable (if one were to imagine all of the possible universes there would be many many more complex universes than simple ones).
What Ward didn’t get onto in the time he had, but covers I think in his books, is the question of if God is atemporal then how can he (it?) be known. There was a bit of a hint of his answer to this in his description of the lunchtime lecture he’d given on the same day, where apparently he’d talked about the fallacy of pure materialism (he described Dawkins as a materialist) when quantum mechanics shows how immaterial the apparently material world actually is.
Ward also mentioned, in his response to questions after the lecture, that his theory was that God could only be known through personal experience, and this is echoed in the quote featured in his Wikipedia entry:
I am a born-again Christian. I can give a precise day when Christ came to me and began to transform my life with his power and love.
I think what he said in his lecture is that whilst there is nothing fundamentally illogical about God, you have to have had a personal experience of him (it?) in order to be persuaded. Which felt to me like rather a sensible, moderate position, very much in keeping with a liberal outlook. The question is, why can’t more Christians be like this?!
(Ward himself, according to Wikipedia anyway, is apparently critical of Christian fundamentalists, arguing that they interpret the bible in implausible ways and choose bits they like, ignoring others, to fit pre-existing beliefs).