Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Estranged Notions: Do Atheists Simply Repress Their Knowledge of God?

Today's post:

Do Atheists Simply Repress Their Knowledge of God?

This is Feser's corner of a recent multi-way argument between apologist Greg Koukl, Randal Rauser, Feser, and atheist Jeff Lowder. Unsurprisingly Feser thinks that the Thomist perspective is the only right answer, but at least he has the apparent intellectual honesty to reject Koukl's nonsense.

But there's a wildcard in here that I didn't see mentioned by anyone involved. (I'd skimmed parts of this exchange on Rauser's blog and links before seeing this post). Koukl is using the usual “without excuse” clobber passage from Romans 1:18-20:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.

But it turns out that at least according to some, there is an open question here as to whether this is Paul stating his own view, or whether he's stating someone else's view which he then argues against. The division of the text into chapters (which, recall, is not original but is a convention added much later) and the addition of section headings (again, not original to the text) seems to mislead here.

One starting point to read about this is this post by James McGrath or this from Don M. Burrows. If nothing else, consider how the impact of translator's choices of punctuation (since the original has none) affect the interpretation, and the extent to which all translators and editors of the text have been pre-committed to some position.