Sunday 28 May 2006

Zwingli, God and beetles

“Of ourselves we know no more about the nature of God than beetles know about the nature of humans.”

—Ulrich Zwingli, Opera (Turici, 1842), 3:157.


David W. Congdon said...

I've always had problems with these proportional arguments, since God is Love and as Love graciously came to the world to reveal Godself to humanity. This is not the case between humans and beetles. The analogy is simply no analogy at all. We do have knowledge of God, because God gave Godself to be known by humanity.

Anonymous said...

Even dung beetles? And John Lennon?

R. Mansfield said...

Yes, Congdon's thoughts above echo mine when I read the quote. Dare I say it, but I think Ulrich had this one wrong. We know more about God than beetles know about us simply because God chose to reveal himself to us. And he chose to reveal his love to us. As for beetles, the only thing we are truly capable of revealing to them is that they should fear us.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you guys are being fair to Zwingli. Surely he is talking about our natural knowledge of God, apart from Christ. The knowledge of faith is a different swarm of insects altogether.

David W. Congdon said...

What "natural knowledge of God"??

In that case, beetles actually know more about humans than humans about God, since there is no natural knowledge of God -- at least not of the God of the gospel revealed in Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

"What 'natural knowledge of God'??"

Yes, exactly, D.W. "Natural knowledge" of God is indeed an oxymoron. Sorry, that's what I thought I was saying - and what I'm suggesting that Zwingli is saying too.

Comparing the knowledge humans have of God to the knowledge beetles have of humans - it's not really a "proportional" argument, is it? That's to mistake the language game being played. You don't have to know anything about entomological phenomenology/epistemology in order to get the point. Zwingli is simply using an arresting image to say that humans have no knowledge of God (apart - I am sure he would agree - from God's self-revelation in Christ).

Perhaps Jim West can help us out!

David W. Congdon said...

Now that I read it again, I think I agree with you. The statement makes much more sense in that light.

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