ISBN 9780954395667 (0954395662)
Geoffrey Berg, 2009 (175pp)
Every so often a book comes along which has the power to change the way you think. This is not one of them.
It should, however, challenge the way you think — about God, about life, purpose and existence; and that, I think, makes it worth the read. More importantly, however, it’s a book that despite being privately published, Christians (and those of other faiths) will need to engage with as it finds its way into bookshops and libraries courtesy of the author’s decision to send out complimentary copies “not only to many book retailers but also to practically every public library in … the English speaking world”.
Berg sets out to demonstrate that God — or, to be more precise, a particular concept of God which he insists is the only possible concept of God — simply cannot exist if we follow the tenets of Logic (his capitalisation). He presents a fascinating but ultimately futile series of six arguments against God — summarised at thesixwaysofatheism.com — with which I personally cannot but agree: the God whom Berg denies does not exist.
Berg’s God — or, as he prefers, his candidate or potential God — is “eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, consciously controlling, supremely good, our ultimate creator and our purpose giver” (p.14). Having dismissed any other concept of God as not worthy of the designation and certainly not worthy of our worship, he then goes on to argue that since it is impossible for any single entity to exhibit all of these characteristics, God quite simply cannot exist. In a nutshell:
even the greatest conceivable entity in the Universe (let alone the greatest entity that actually does exist in the Universe!) must necessarily fall short of being God. (p.124)
— to which I say a wholehearted Amen!
Rather than rant Dawkins-style, Berg’s approach is more calm and collected but with a tendency towards petulance as he exalts logic to the status of the godhead that he simultaneously denies:
… I deny that anything can exist contrary to Logic. I doubt anything can exist with that degree of inconsistency. Speaking personally, I also doubt that any real entity can exist completely immaterially. In any case we actually know nothing of the supposed alternative principles upon which God operates. That is merely human conjecture. Indeed it is irrational conjecture devised by the religious to suit the religious without any foundation at all beyond the imagination of some humans. Faith in religious terms is generally only a posh word for the reckless imaginings of ideas that cannot sensibly, let alone rationally, be believed in. (p.69)
Further on, failing to recognise his own reasoning as itself based on “nothing but human conjecture” — and unfortunately coming over rather like a child saying, “So there!” — he asserts:
What is beyond doubt is that I have now provided absolute and indubitable disproof of the existence of a monotheistic God which no objection can overcome. Therefore like it or not, make of it what you will, monotheism is wrong and atheism is right! (p.143)
Putting issues of tone and style aside, however, the question remains: does the cumulative force of Berg’s arguments genuinely represent the decisive proof against God’s existence that he claims?
The answer is, in my view at least, yes; and I also think it matters not one whit. Quite simply because Berg, like Dawkins before him and in common with so many other aggressive atheists, has fallen into the trap of regarding God as an entity within the universe. As he rightly insists, such an entity cannot and does not exist, has never existed beyond the human imagination.
The God who is, however: that’s another story. The God who is, who crosses the gulf between humanity and God in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, who dares to take on the impossibility of existence, who walks amongst us and dies at our hands — that God cannot be argued into or out of existence. That God — the living, loving, breathing hot-blooded Word, the Logos, stands for ever against the frozen chill of human logic.
Berg is right in what he affirms: we do indeed know nothing of the alternative principles upon which God operates; but he is wrong in what he denies: the reality of a God who does not exist within the framework of human experience and comprehension but who chooses to enter that framework.
Phil Groom, June 2009
Phil Groom is this site’s Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He’s a regular contributor to Christian Marketplace magazine and is the manager of London School of Theology Books & Resources. Any opinions expressed here are personal and should not be taken as representing the views of London School of Theology or of any other group or organisation.
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- Barmy Baptist resorts to sarcasm in dismissing new atheist book: The Freethinker, 22/06/2009 (in which this review is cited)
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- Six Improved Arguments for Atheism! Unreasonable Faith, 01/06/2009