Soliton | Think Not Whether The Serpent Exists, But What The Serpent Said


CaputoI can think of no better way to stretch my legs out over the Atlantic for 11 hours than flying with Pete. Like a couple of great insomniacs, we fell to talking some theology, which knocked out the 5 rows around us in no time. I think BA might actually contract us for overnight flights, or produce some sort of video channel to help people get some sleep.

We tried to watch Blades of Glory, but the system broke. There is a God. Perhaps…. which put us back to the God-talk.


One of the interesting things Pete was setting out, one of very many, was the idea that actually proving that God exists is a dead-end topic for theologians. It can’t be done, so needs to be left undone. Pete quotes Barth, who was asked “So, did the serpent physically speak in the Genesis narrative?”, to which he replied “The question is not whether the serpent spoke. The real question is what the serpent said.”

In the usual argument over whether God ‘intervenes’ in our world, people who have doubted this have drawn two conclusions:

1. There is no God, and thus no intervention is possible, or

2. There may be a God, but this God doesn’t intervene. He’s set the world running, and stepped away.

Dr. Peter J. Rollins Ph.D* (not Caputo as I erroneously mentioned), of whom Pete is a big fan, argues that there is a 3rd option:

3. Intervention has definitely occurred in my life, but there may not be a God.

So the question thus becomes: let’s take the fact that I experience some sort of intervention in my life seriously, but not get bogged down in the unanswerable question of whether God physically intervened. Instead, what does this intervention say to me? This helpfully takes us away from having to work out exactly how God might have intervened – an argument we cannot make sensible progress on – and forces us to focus on the actual intervention itself. I know I have experienced love here… what impact does that have on how I’m going to live?

* Ph.D’s are, according to the man himself, as Doctors of Philosophy, the ‘only true doctors.’ Medical doctors, in particular, are singled out by him as charlatans.


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8 responses to “Soliton | Think Not Whether The Serpent Exists, But What The Serpent Said”

  1. if we ask ourselves how to be intervening love on another’s life and our own, it opens the rigid qualifiers we have put around that action. To endlessly debate the why of God we avoid our fear.

  2. this is really great stuff!!! Thank you so much!!!

  3. barry taylor

    I couldn’t agree more with Pete on this one–as a big fan of Caputo myself, I think the ‘third’ option he puts forward is a way to move theological conversation forward, or at least into vital territory that needs attention–I think we have to find ways to break out of the binary oppositions that have shaped the theological enterprise for so many years–they generally aren’t helpful these days and looking for new ways to put things is a great beginning –see you later this week

  4. Agreed. Look forward to it!

  5. Kester – this ties in with the work I did refuting the New Atheists – in particular, check out Francis Collins, “The Language of God” and Joan Roughgarden, “Evolution and Christian Faith.”

  6. Love it, love Pete’s stuff, but hope he doesn’t get sick.

  7. Kester – how does Pete’s thrid option relate to “intervention has definitely occurred in my life, there may not be a God, but what has happened to me seems sort of like stuff that happened to some people in the Bible, so by faith I’m going to believe that this intervention was by God, but hey I can’t prove it”.

  8. What an absurd title for a book that is supposedly about God?