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Medieval theologians wondered about the nature of Divinity as much as anyone. Arguing in opposition to St. Thomas Aquinas’s views that God did what was good because God was good, and so acted reasonably, the scholastic Duns Scotus claimed that because God was completely free and omnipotent.  He could not be limited by reason.  Therefore God’s will was the distinguishing mark of his divinity rather than any sense of divine reason. God was not good because He did good things judged independently of God; anything God did was good because it was God who did it.  Reasons were limitations if power was total.[1]

At least since Scotus this logos-centered power-focused sense of God had been a significant current within Christian theology, but its most worrisome implications came much later.  By accepting this view of God while rejecting logos when it seems to undermine their view of scripture, modern Fundamentalism made power central to their theology.  Because in any literal sense scripture was contradictory and increasingly at odds with science, to base one’s views on its inerrancy was ultimately to argue that what one chose to believe was in fact the will of God because one believed it.  While vital in their place, when elevated above reason and evidence power and will have proven a toxic mix.

For the Fundamentalist, the Bible as well as Jesus was to be accepted on faith not in the mythic sense as a means for communicating universal spiritual truths, as Sallustius and Augustine had described, but in terms of a personal commitment that its words as personally understood must literally be true, no matter what.  A whale really swallowed Jonah.  The sun actually stood still for Joshua.  The earth was truly created only about 6000 years ago.  This faith commitment meant that evidence to the contrary was to be ignored, belittled, or distorted and that contradiction was denied no matter how seemingly obvious it was.  Standards of intellectual honesty were abandoned in favor of strength and sincerity of assertion, an assertion made strong by being a product of will.

Logos is taken as far as literalists think it can be pushed, and when the physical and logical evidence push back, logos is jettisoned and the will to believe takes up the slack.  A God defined by infinite power can do anything regardless of what seems to be the evidence, and the believer’s imagination and preferences determine what the meaning is.  As a good-hearted Fundamentalist woman once told me, fossils were evidence of “God’s sense of humor.”  Of course those taken in by this ‘loving’ God’s ‘joke’ went to Hell.  For eternity.

Instead of John’s description of God as love, God is absolute and ultimate power.  What counts as love is so because there is absolute power behind it rather than love being ultimately what is most powerful.  Such a theology worships power above all else, and so is a mate to the active nihilism of the Nietzschean “will to power.” Small wonder so many of these ‘Christians’ also admire Ayn Rand.


[1] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500. (San Francisco: Harper, 1975). 515-7.