Notes from some of the things Denys Turner said in the clip Jonathan Miller in conversation with Denys Turner.
Being a card-carrying atheist is no longer intellectually interesting in the way it still was in the 19th century. Indifference is more troubling, as it ceases to be astonished and rules out certain questions, especially “Why is there any thing at all?”
“There is all the difference in the world between a question concerning HOW things are and the question concerning THAT things are.”
Classically: creatio ex nihilo. This is an odd expression. Aquinas pointed that there isn’t a kind of thing that the name “nothing” names.
“God is not any kind of thing...We’re not talking about something that’s on the map of creation. We’re talking about something that’s off the map of creation.”
Hence the need for negative theology, “knowing that you don’t know what you’re talking about”. Theology is “the sense that on the other side of our language is something which sustains it but which can’t be contained within it.” Cf. Ludwig Wittgenstein at the end of his Tractatus logico-philosophicus “What underlies how we say things cannot itself be said.” [strongly interpretative rendering of “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.”]
Bertrand Russell: “the world is simply given” – better: “the world is gifted, it has been given to us by a good and loving God”
The language of gift presumes intentionality but beware the language of purpose. Gifts can be gratuitous; a thing can exist simply because this sort of thing is beautiful.
Either everything, in some way or another, including failure, reveals God, or the atheist position is correct.