Theistic-Immaterialism

As a Christian, you have likely never heard of the interesting, viable, potent, and noteworthy philosophical position called ‘theistic-immaterialism’.

In fact, upon hearing that term, you might be saying ‘theistic-what?’

So, what is theistic-immaterialism?

In essence, theistic-immaterialism, or Christian-immaterialism, is philosopher George Berkeley’s position concerning reality. And that position is that matter does not exist…at all. Indeed, theistic-immaterialism has no need of the materialist hypothesis.

More specifically, theistic-immaterialism holds to the following points:

  • Only thinking things (minds) and their thoughts/ideas exist, with one infinite mind and other finite minds existing.
  • Matter does not really exist at all. Talking about the ‘physical’ is just useful shorthand, like saying that the sun rises and sets, even though it really does not.
  • Reality, and the objects in reality, are ideas in the mind of God. God feeds those ideas into each finite mind so we all experience the same reality and can make decisions about how to act in that reality. God then causes events to occur based on our mental decisions.
  • Theistic-immaterialism is a ‘realist’ view, because reality is objective and independent of any human mind given that it is set by God’s mind.
  • Probably the best way to think of this position is like a dream. Think about it, in a lucid dream, we have no actual sensory inputs, and yet we often experience a reality that is totally “real” and that we are able to interact in. Well, for the theistic-immaterialist, reality actually is like a conscious lucid day-dream that God is having, and God is connecting each finite mind to His dream to interact in it. Why is God doing this? Because this life is a test for us—see the trials of Job or Adam and Eve to understand this—and in order for us to be tested, we need an environment to interact in.

Now, while this position will be hard for many Western thinkers to accept, theistic-immaterialism is, in my view, extremely difficult to argue against.

After all, consider these reasons for theistic-immaterialism:

  • Theistic immaterialism is the best explanation of reality. It has the most explanatory power, is the simplest, and makes the least assumptions concerning our indisputable background information.
  • Occam’s Razor—which we cannot avoid using—leads to theistic-immaterialism.
  • The burden of proof is on the materialist (whether a dualist or pure materialist) to prove that matter exists, however…
  • …there is nothing in our experience that shows that matter exists. The existence of matter is an inference, but it is an unsound inference because of Point 1. Thus, there is no non-question-begging evidence for the existence of matter. Claiming that matter exists is literally a ‘blind faith’ claim.
  • Materialism has a number of serious problems with it, such as Hempel’s Dilemma, the lack of a proper definition of what matter is, etc. Immaterialism does not suffer from these problems, or at least does not suffer from them to the same extent as materialism does.
  • Materialism, when thought about critically, is just as strange as immaterialism appears to be. Thus, materialism has no ‘common-sense’ or ‘initial plausibility’ advantage over immaterialism. In fact, as Berkeley argued, it is quite the opposite.
  • There is no need to posit the existence of matter to account for our experience, and since there is no need, then why bother.
  • Scripturally, Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s “…invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (ESV) But God’s nature is to be spirit, not matter. God is a mind that thinks. Immaterialism is a position that argues that nature reflects that (because nature is just the thoughts of God’s mind), but materialism does not reflect this point (or at least not as well as immaterialism does).

And note that theistic-immaterialism destroys many of the standard atheist objections to theism, such as the so-called ‘hiddenness of God’ objection. After all, how can God be hidden, when the ideas of His mind are literally causing every single experience that we are having. Far from being hidden, God is the closed thing to us. Indeed, for in God we live and move and have our being.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that for many in the academy, theistic-immaterialism is rejected not because it is unorthodox—after all, if views like eliminative-materialism are treated seriously, then nothing in philosophy is strange—but rather because it is a view which necessitates something like a God existing, which is unpalatable to many. And so, theistic-immaterialism is dismissed without further consideration even while there are few coherent or rational reasons to do so.

Regardless though, theistic-immaterialism is still the most rational position to hold. And that is why you should be aware of this point-of-view.

Alright everyone, that’s it. Until next time, Godspeed.

Non Nobis Christus, Non Nobis, Sed Nomini Tuo Da Gloriam

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