Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Just a societal construct?

Garrett Green writes of Karl Barth that his “phenomenology of religion shows him to be in general agreement with the dominant tendency in sociology of religion since Durkheim that interprets religion as a structural aspect of human societies.” [Garrett Green, “Introduction: Barth as Theorist of Religion,” in Karl Barth, On Religion: The Revelation of God as the Sublimation of Religion, trans. Garrett Green (London: T&T Clark, 2006), 1–29.] Gods—including the biblical god—are the precipitate of human, societal forces.

This line of thinking offers a robust answer to the question of YHWH's ancient look-alikes. Chemosh and YHWH resemble one another because they are both patron gods of the southern Levant, and therefore generated by many of the same societal needs and conditions. This approach has the advantage of simplicity. It faces the phenomena of similarity and renders a squarely historical account of it. It would seem, however, to create an insuperable drawback: it results in a YHWH who is as dead, absent, and otiose as all the other ancient deities long since consigned to the “graveyard of the gods.” Not only would this result fly in the face of the Bible’s bedrock confidence in YHWH’s livingness; it would belie the basic sensibility of Jews and Christians that their communities relate to a true divine counterpart.—Collin Cornell in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, p. 111 (emphasis original)

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