From the beginning, there has been this tension within theism between defining God as a person and defining God logically as a necessary and simple First Being (the God of the philosophers). The two do not appear logically consistent with one another, yet many theists, including Thomist intellectuals like Edward Feser, profess to believe both things about God, and hold them both, as a matter of habit, in soft focus.
But when you zoom-in, how, for instance, could a pure, undifferentiated being of infinite scope think, know, desire, act–and create a cosmos from nothing? How could such a being interact with matter–and be all good and all powerful at the same time (given the degree of suffering in the world)? How is it coherent for God to be one and a trinity at the same time, and for Jesus to be God incarnate?
All of these are deemed to be mysterious–and imaginative reconciliations have been proposed by theologians to make them seem less mysterious.
But if you’re going to take science and definition seriously, it won’t do to call the questions surrounding God “mysteries,” and carry on with theology-as-usual.
Thus it’s hardly surprising that a scientist like Jerry Coyne–who recently wrote a book on theistic shell games, Faith vs. Fact–is impatient with theist appeals to miracle, mystery, and authority, and the imaginative somersaults of theologians and theist philosophers surrounding their obscure and often incoherent definitions of God. We all should be. But we all aren’t.
And that’s why Coyne’s book is valuable. He makes the admirable effort, as a scientist, to push back against intellectual complacency and fuzzy thought. The biggest term of all–God–is not precisely and coherently defined by religion-friendly intellectuals–and yet the religious machine keeps on putting out its sausages. That’s the chief problem. God is a ghost bird.