In my 15 page response to the Pullman series I indicated that his notion of God is a strawman notion. The problem is that he doesn’t know that, most atheists don’t know that, and even many Christian theists don’t know that.
In the Pullman series, ‘God’ is a very old ‘angel’ who was merely the first entity to become self-aware as a product of evolution. “Yahweh” then lied and told everyone that followed that he was their creator. In the series, Pullman admits that there may be a creator, and in one interview he says,
“If we’re talking on the scale of human life and the things we see around us, I’m an atheist. There’s no God here. There never was. But if you go out into the vastness of space, well, I’m not so sure. On that level, I’m an agnostic.”
A comment like this helps us see clearly that what Pullman thinks of ‘God’ is nothing like what educated Christians mean. It would be evident to educated Christians that if “Yahweh” is just a super-powerful entity within the universe, it is not the ‘God’ that Christians submit exists. God as Christians propose is by definition the creator of the universe. Or, if you wish to propose countless universe, God is the source and sustainer of them all. This is again, by definition. Pullman has no problem equivocating between ‘God’ as Christians understand him and this ‘imposter’ Yahweh. He draws no distinction. In other words, this evolved agent, ‘Yahweh’ simply cannot be the Christian God, but Pullman proceeds willy nilly to identify the two together.
It ought to concern us all that an Oxford educated professor can so horribly massacre a basic Christian doctrine. He certainly is not the first Oxford scholar to do the same. Richard Dawkins in his “The God Delusion” obliterates any such distinctions like this by saying such things like,
“the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. […] God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice.” (Pg 50)
“I am not attacking the particular qualities of Yahweh, or Jesus, or Allah, or any other specific god such as Baal, Zeus or Watan.” pg 31.
[the ‘God Hypothesis,’ according to him:] “there exists a super-human, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and anything in it, including us.”
“Whether we ever get to know about them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century.” Pg 72.
All of these statements reflect a complete and utter intellectual bankruptcy as regards the Christian conception of ‘God’ and you can see how similar to Pullman’s views Dawkins’s is. Many of the atheists that I’ve corresponded with are similarly ignorant. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the fact that they insist that they are informed and are really rejecting the Christian’s actual position and… well… selling off their books as real responses to Christian theism.
Now, this is the Church’s fault, really. Atheists don’t like to hear that because it means a great deal to them to believe that their position is the result of reasoned inquiry. But most atheists are just poorly informed Christians who have not had their misconceptions corrected. Not all, but most. And why are they so poorly informed?
It is because we Christians have done such a poor job in communicating the definition of ‘God’ to both our young and to outsiders. I am afraid some of it has to do with the anti-intellectualism within some Christian circles where the quest to demonstrate ‘faith’ reduces to the assertion that any question about God is tantamount to blasphemy with the effect that in many quarters… Christian quarters… people are unable to articulate the basic definitions of God as he has been historically understood. How can they? That would require the Christians being permitted to ask questions in order to flesh out their understanding. Hard to do if asking questions is blasphemy.
That means that the Pullman His Dark Materials series is not something we should consider a threat as Christians. Why should we? It would be like being threatened by a man who attacks the nature of the President of the United States but presents this president as a foreign born individual. By definition, the president can’t be born into the citizenship of another country. By definition.
Instead, the Pullman series is an opportunity for the Christian Church to wake up to the challenges that it faces in educating its youth. For example, have Christian youth ever heard the terms ‘transcendence’ or ‘non-contingent’ or ‘immanent’ before? If they had, they’d know without further instruction that the Pullman series- and Dawkins and other atheists- is raw misrepresentation. But they aren’t hearing this… and that’s the problem.
I have a hunch that it is this sort of reasoning being advanced by the authors of a book I have not yet read called “Killing the Imposter God.” A quote from the publisher’s statement will do:
the authors attempt to show that the Pullman novels are not about killing off God, but rather, annihilating an understanding of God that is antiquated and unimaginative. Analyzing lengthy scenes from the novels, they find Pullman’s views pantheistic, rather than atheistic.
I think I would agree. Isn’t it interesting that Pullman himself is unaware of this? Isn’t it interesting that leading atheists like Pullman and Dawkins are not actually advancing atheism even though they think they are? Isn’t it a cause for concern for the Church that so many Christians are falling away into… ‘atheism’ that isn’t even in fact ‘atheism’?
It is a crisis resolved not by boycotts but by actually educating our young Christians- and modern skeptics while we’re at it- just what it is we believe as Christians.