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The God of Atheism

Seriously, how much does Herbert McCabe rule? Reading Eagleton lately has made me need to go back and read the real thing. Unlike the new atheists that Eagleton roundly eviscerates, McCabe displays with the utmost profundity that all true criticism of “the gods” that enslave humanity comes precisely from Christianity itself:

“Christianity begins with out father Abraham and with Moses and the rejection of the gods. It begins in that crucial period in the history of humankind when some men and women in the Middle East were called to reject the religion and worship of the gods and to listen, instead to the Voice commanding them to justice and mercy and righteousness among people. This Voice they called the Lord, and he is not a god, or else he is the God to end all gods. He proclaims himself, you might say, as the god of atheism: ‘I am the Lord . . . I brought you out of slavery . . . you shall have no gods.’ The Lord, if he is God, is the God of human liberation from slavery and idolatry of injustice.” (God Still Matters, p. 233)

You could say that McCabe may well be the harbinger of a new form of radically theocentric Christian atheism.


  1. Nate wrote:

    I really dig that excerpt. I might have to check that book out.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 3:45 am | Permalink
  2. kim fabricius wrote:

    Cf. Nicholas Lash:

    “I am not nearly as puzzled by people who say ‘I believe in God’ as I am by people who think that they can give a straightforward and satisfactory account of what they mean when they say that they believe in God.
    …. We should, perhaps, ask ourselves whether it is obviously the case that Christian belief systematically excludes all forms of agnosticism.”

    From “Can a Theologian Keep the Faith?”, in Theology on Dover Beach (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1979), p. 46.

    And: “Perhaps only a faith that has lost its nerve feels obliged continually to insist that it is quite sure of itself, that it knows quite clearly what is to be said concerning the mystery of God.
    …. Immense human suffering has been caused by people who, lacking a very profound understanding of themselves, were nevertheless quite confident that they understood God.”

    From “Continuity and Discontinuity in the Christian Understanding of God”, in ibid., p. 31.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 4:15 am | Permalink
  3. Ethan wrote:

    In many ways McCabe’s legacy lives in Denys Turner’s studies of medieval mysticism, philosophical theology, and political theology. Turner hasn’t McCabe’s wit, but he makes explicit the dense philosophical and historical scholarship that was implicit in McCabe’s essays and which I have often wished McCabe had written about more directly.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink
  4. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Have you noticed that Eagleton practically plagiarizes McCabe? I mean some of the stuff is pretty much word for word, straight out of McCabe.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 8:12 am | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, he totally does.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  6. robert wrote:

    Interesting. Under that formulation it is indeed the New Atheists who are the polytheists cowering before the gods of nature, whether those gods be the market, historical determinism, natural selection, etc.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  7. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Weren’t the first Christians called atheists because they rejected the pantheon? Seems to be the inverse, . . . good quote, Halden.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  8. John Tyson wrote:

    I’m still wondering, what good does this sudden engagement with the “New Atheists” do in the end? It seems readers of the New Atheists, especially Dennett, would have made their mind up a long time ago. Is their really a space for persuasion here? It seems like Dennet/Ditchkins and Hart/Eagleton (although his own atheism makes this binary problematic) represent such opposite ends of the spectrum that they wouldn’t matter to the other. Perhaps, Eagleton complicates this.

    Friday, May 29, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  9. Josh wrote:

    It’s kind of like how Voegelin referred to Christianity’s having “de-sacralized” politics.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink
  10. Nate Kerr wrote:

    John Tyson’s question resonates with something that I have been thinking for some time. To what degree does this emerging fashionable engagement with today’s “cultured despisers” of Christianity and religion confirm so-called “postliberal” theology’s methodological continuity with much of liberal Protestantism and its Kulturprotestantismus?

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

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