Is the God of Natural Theology a False God?
I recently heard a person from a presuppositionalist apologetics perspective speaking against the use of natural theology. Quoting an evidentialist who acknowledged that that natural theology does not reveal the Christian God, this presuppositionalist reasoned that since any God other than the Christian God is a false God, natural theology points to a false God.
This was a misrepresentation of what supporters of natural theology believe. When one says it is not the Christian God, what is meant is that not enough characteristics are revealed in natural theology to narrow the identification down to the Christian God. They do not mean it is a different God.
This is not an attack on presuppositionist apologetics. Nor is this argument limited to presuppositionalists.
I have been reading through Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. Barth is especially critical in his writings toward apologetics. This is strange in that Barth actually does apologetics frequently in his writings as he gives reasons for his positions.
The reason Barth is critical toward apologetics is because he identifies apologetics with natural theology and he rejects natural theology. He argues that the God revealed in natural theology is just as likely Baal as it is YHWH. Barth would much rather begin with the starting point of the revealed Word of God.
Is natural theology something that should be rejected?
I would hesitate to reject natural theology in that it has played a significant role in my faith development. I did not jump right from atheism to Christianity. I first went from atheism to theism and natural theology helped me to make this jump.
I do not think that the God I believed was a different God from the Bible. I just didn’t know it at the time. It took prayer and reading of the Bible before I could make the next jump to Christianity.
Think about it this way.
Our three youngest children are adopted and they have known that for a long time. For a period of time, we spoke about their birth parents in generalities. Later, we revealed their real names and specific details about who they are. They went from understanding the category of parents to understanding the actual identity of their birth parents.
I believe something similar happens with natural theology.
Natural theology gets us close to God, but more details are needed before we understand that God as the Christian God. This is not a shift from believing in a false God to believing in the true God. This is a transition of knowing only a few details about the true God to knowing more details about that same true God.