“You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)

The following comes from Ch. 4 of God Goes to Starbucks by Paul Copan (Baker, 2008). Says atheist philosopher Bede Rundle, in his Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing (Oxford: Clarendon, 2004):

“If you are going to make your god in the image of man, you might at least filter out some of the less desirable human traits. God should be above any sort of attention-seeking behavior, for instance, and an insistence on being told how unsurpassably wonderful one is does not rate highly. As Hume*, in the guise of Philo**, observed: ‘It is an absurdity to believe that the Deity has human passions, and one of the lowest of human passions, a restless appetite for applause.‘”

How should a Christian react to this?

(For more there’s the DOOR.)

 

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When God gave the first of the 10 commandments, and later said and implied that we should love Him more than anything, these were obviously proud (as we usually think of pride) and, to many, disturbing statements.

But what is pride? According to Copan (reflecting upon C. S, Lewis’s Ch. 8, “The Great Sin” in Mere Christianity), “pride is a kind of false advertising campaign. We promote an image of ourselves because we suspect others won’t accept who we really are. Pride is actually a lie about a person’s identity*** or achievements. To be proud is to live in a world propped up with falsehoods about oneself, taking credit where credit isn’t due….Humility on the other hand, involves having a realistic assessment of oneself. This includes recognizing not only weaknesses but also strengths….A truly humble person won’t deny his abilities, but will acknowledge that his gifts come from God and that he can’t take credit for them. So to be humble is to know our place before God.”

So, what about Rundle’s comments about God? Copan continues: “Upon closer examination, we can see that God can’t be called proud by this definition. Rather, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. His view of himself isn’t distorted or exaggerated–after all, he is God!….He thinks accurately about himself.”

 

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*Citation from David Hume (1711-1776) is from N. Kemp Smith’s 2nd. ed. of Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion (Edinburgh: Nelson, 1947, p.226).

**Philo is the skeptical character in Hume’s posthumously published Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. [Thanks, T. M., for the correction.]

***This definition, in isolation, can be easily misinterpreted. “Legitimate” pride which, in fact, is encouraged in the Bible such as “glorying or boasting in the Lord,” must be considered alongside humility as elaborated by Copan (and others) and which is consistent with the OED definition.