As four philosophers rode a train through the countryside, they passed by three grey sheep on a hillside. “Aha,” the first philosopher exclaimed, “all of the sheep in this region must be grey!

The second opined, “well, we can be certain that this is true of some portion of the sheep in the region.”

The third chimed in, “we can be sure only that three of the sheep in this region are grey.”

And the fourth insisted, “the most we can be sure of is that three of the sheep in this region are grey on one side.”

There is a lesson to be gleaned from this tale which may be applied to theological discourse. To find the probability that comes closest to reality, we must avoid being the first and the fourth among this group. To generalise from the characteristics necessary to a Creator of our Universe to presumptions of “infinite” and “eternal” and “perfect in every way” is no more justifiable than to make the broad generalisation of the first philosopher, and indeed swiftly breaches the point of inferring that the existence of some grey sheep evidences a world that has always been full of only grey sheep-—and to carry forward that view even in the face, perhaps, of later evidence that some sheep are white as the snow. Conversely, to refuse to speculate as to the characteristics of the Creator beyond the Creation itself is to wear the unnecessary blinders of the fourth philosopher. After all, a sufficiently suspicious philosopher might extend that speculative uncertainty to the question of whether the sheep were truly grey even on the side that was seen. Perhaps, he may argue, they were simply painted on that side to trick passers-by!!


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