10. 25 October 1985


Dear Nancy,

Lovely to see you: and I'm looking forward to the further contributions. Here's a further note on your four main points.


1. The nature of theology

2. God as Jehovah

3. Jehovah as Jesus's father

4. The difficulties


I define 4 as 1-3. Theology as I understand it (or, rather as I do not understand it) is the attempt to make sense about God: or, as I would tendentiously put it, the attempt to disguise nonsense as sense. I note that theology is an almost entirely Christian preoccupation or indeed obsession, and I attribute this to the fact that the Christian religion begins with, as absolute presuppositions, a set of bizarre assertions which take several lifetimes and billions of books to contort into any sort of rudimentary sense. One example among dozens is the belief in survival after death, in the face of the rather well known fact that nobody (but nobody) survives death, which is what death actually means.

   Items 2-3 entail the special difficulty like Father like Son.

   I should have thought that theology of all things would have to begin at the beginning, and that the first move that the writer of Letters to an Atheist has to make is to discharge the burden of proof that there is, or conceivably could be, any such being as the God of Christianity (e.g. an impersonal Person, a sexless Father, infinitely powerful yet possessing a will which his creatures ignore or reject all the time, infinitely good yet coexistent with evil, and so forth, in scores of such paradoxes). Of course theologians will assume this because it conveys a general licence to chatter to and about themselves and each other without bothering their heads about truth or sense or logic or argument or any such tiresome and inconvenient topics. But that's where and how you have to begin if you're writing to or for anyone outside the faith, surely?

   Love as ever, E.