Daniel Bastian's Reviews > God in the Dark

God in the Dark by Os Guinness
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Feb 22, 2012

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Read from February 27 to April 18, 2012

OS Guinness' God in the Dark could have alternatively been titled The Philosophy of Doubt. In it, Guinness engages with grand, philosophical magniloquence 9 different brands of doubt which often characterize man's struggle with the Christian conception of god. Make no mistake; this is a decidedly dense, high-level read. OS Guinness is clearly an accomplished philosopher and fervid Christian, but I found his dense prose to be somewhat of a detriment to the message he intended to convey. High-level prose certainly has its place in works of this kind, but not at the expense of clarity. What's more curious, his literary style seems at odds with the importance of what is discussed. As momentous as Guinness likely deems the subject matter discussed here, it seems accessibility would be assigned greater importance than eloquent prose.

No matter what specific types of doubt one has faced or is currently facing in one's search for the meaning and source of existence, it is likely engaged here. Guinness describes in comprehensive detail doubt arising from faulty conceptions of god, doubt from a stagnation of faith, doubt from unruly emotions and several others. As these doubts are approached from a philosophical perspective, do not expect many real-world scenarios and arguments. Much of the doubt "flavors" are discussed abstractly, which is understandable given the genre, but the work as a whole might not be sufficiently satisfying for someone looking for analysis of specific reasons for doubts.

While the "intelligent design" (or teleological) argument is often the most cogent argument for the atheist, it's the problem of evil that is traditionally the most difficult issue with which theists must contend, present company included. I wasn't fully engaged in the book until the final two chapters when the problem of evil was discussed, albeit cursorily, and doubt arising from waiting and impatience. Indeed, the majority of the book failed to address any of the problems I am most interested in, and I found the final two chapters to easily comprise the greatest substance the book had to offer.

As an impassioned skeptic of theism and Christianity in particular, I found his arguments lacking just as much as others I've encountered. In my view belief in the theistic, personal conceptions of god is the suspension of reason in the form of faith. Faith, as used in the religious sense, is the adherence to a notion that is unsupported by evidence and thus belief cannot be derived through reason.

His battle with the problem of evil within a worldview predicated on an omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent being ends in a stalemate as is so often the case. Guinness advocates a suspension of judgment because we don't have all the facts, with the unstated but obvious assumption that evil must be somehow good. In the face of untold evil, devastation, starvation, sickness and mass extinctions in our evolutionary past, we simply do not have enough information to judge objectively, he asserts.

Ironically, he inserts a quote in the final chapter which I think rather handily undermines his problem of evil argument. It's a quote by Dostoyevsky's Ivan, and its poignancy is undeniable:

"All the knowledge in the world is not worth a child's tears."

I couldn't agree more.
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