One of the oldest symbols of the Christian faith is the fish, chosen both for its simplicity of design and for the fact that its Greek name happens to make a handy acronym for the Greek phrase meaning “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” I think it’s time we re-purposed both the symbol and the acronym (in English) by using it to remind ourselves of the four all-too-human sources of information about God.
The F stands for Fantasy, the things men make up about God. We see this, for example, in the trinity. Some early Christians believed in the deity of Jesus, others believed in strict monotheism. Scripture was ambiguous, and could be used to support either side. Solution? Someone just made up the notion of God having a “triune” nature.
Or look at the recent idea that goodness is defined by God’s nature, and therefore He issues good decrees. That’s not anything that was revealed to any prophet or discovered by direct observation of God. Someone made it up in order to escape from the Euthyphro Dilemma. Even the classic “God works in mysterious ways” is an appeal to fantasy: the believer imagines that somewhere out there, beyond mortal apprehension, is some perfectly good reason why God does not behave in a way men would call “good.”
The I in FISH stands for Intuition, the feelings people have about God. “The Lord spoke to me and told me that there’s a man in this congregation who is struggling with pornography…” (I actually heard a woman say that in a church with about 300 people in it.) Mormons use this one a lot; they call it “the testimony.” People “sense” that God is real, and they “discover” His characteristics through their intuition and feelings. Sometimes the feelings get so strong they have to fall down and roll around on the ground, that’s how real God feels to them.
The S stands for Superstition, the act of giving God credit for things you see in the real world. Intelligent Design is the big example here: people don’t understand how the universe works, and so they just attribute everything to God. That’s not science, it’s superstition! But people use superstition as a means of making “observations” about God, whether or not He actually has any involvement in the things they’re giving Him credit for. (Hint: it’s no more difficult to give all the credit to Spongebob Squarepants, except that doing so would expose the inherent silliness of such an approach.)
Lastly, the H stands for Hearsay, all the stories that men tell about God and that, strangely, elude objective verification. The Bible falls into this last category, because some parts are verifiable and others are not, and the parts that tell us about God always fall into the latter category. These stories frequently include exaggeration, selective omission, misinterpretation, and other sources of error, and are remarkable for the way they consistently fail to reflect the kind of things that happen in real life.
And that’s it, that’s the only source of information we have about God. Four subjective, biased and unreliable sources of information, all based on fallible men.
Remember that the next time you see a bumper sticker with a FISH on it.