Religions, however, should (and most do) make claims about what exists (God, spirituality, etc.), and how what exists influences our life. Let us call theism the knowledge of the claims about the reality of God as made by religion, or presupposed by religion. I want to concentrate here on the core claims that are central to religion, and to focus on monotheism. And I want to elucidate those claims in a rational manner. This is to take theism just like a scientific theory, and spell out & explain its basic principles as clearly as possible.
That there is a God, and that God is One, are the primary assumptions of a rational monotheism:
These are the postulates needed for further constructive work in theistic research. Not everyone may be willing to make such assumptions. The a-theist, for example, assumes that God does not exist. He or she is free to do that, to make that hypothesis, to see what further ideas follow, and to see what explanations may be produced. In our investigation, however, we begin with the theistic postulates above. May the best explanation win.
Such a pair of postulates is not enough to generate deductions and is hence nowhere near enough to produce all the explanations that we seek. We need to combine it with further postulates to be described later.
Discussions with friends have shown me that there are many differences and uncertainties concerning theism. Even within theology the question of the powers of natural objects has been commonly divorced from the question of how God sustains those objects in existence. Because I understand that the behavior of objects does depend on the details of theism and on how they are sustained in existence, I will now present expositions to elucidate the needed principles of theism. The primary function of these posts is to outline the core principles that will be needed as foundations for the later scientific theorizing. The postulates listed are not arbitrary but were carefully chosen from what I think of as ‘vanilla theism’. These are the core beliefs of the main theistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Those are the three religions or peoples ‘of the Book’. Those religions often make further additional assumptions that are not shared by all. Sometimes I may append brief mentions of the content of those additional ideas, but I do not have the space in this book to explore all their separate consequences.
The core beliefs of philosophical theism are typically that God is eternal, infinite, necessary, one, immutable, impassible, transcendent and immanent. Then, for religious purposes at least, we add that God is good, loving, a divine person, worthy of worship, worthy of praise, righteous, just, awe-inspiring, and always merciful and forgiving. However, it is not entirely clear how these last attributes are related together or even how they follow from the first (philosophical) group of attributes. A difficulty for many people is that the philosophical attributes above hardly allow that God be living. That is because it is doubtful that an ‘immutable, impassible One’ can be loving and merciful. God may well be both, we believe, but the rational understanding of the connection is weak.
The coming postulates are chosen, therefore, to emphasize the life and loving nature of God. They assert that God is eternal, infinite and transcendent, but insist, in addition, that God is living and that God is loving. These postulates about life and love are certainly not known a priori. The philosophical proofs of the existence of God never conclude by proving those particular hypotheses about the living nature of God. Nevertheless, they are core and central beliefs of religious theism. I strongly believe that they come come from revelations from God. I believe that God’s input into the religious books over the last several thousand years has lead to a general awareness that God is living and loving. He is living and loving in his Divine way, a way that we forever struggle to understand.
I am not going to discuss particular revelations or particular books because I believe that the core claims to be made can be distilled from religious thought. Let us therefore continue with introducing the core theistic postulates to see what can thereby be derived as a basis for the principles of our world.
Adapted from chapter 7 of Starting Science From God.