Phenomenal Phenomenology

Phenomenology is the study of how things appear, not necessarily how they are. On any given day on earth, the sun appears to set on the horizon, often in spectacular fashion. In fact of course, what is happening is the earth is rotating on its axis. What makes the sunset spectacular in some cases is pollution, dust or soot clouds more evident at the horizon make the sunsets more red or orange, and of course there is the further illusion that the sun gets bigger or closer to us at the horizon. In fact, we are talking about one illusion after another—- the human eye can quite easily be deceived. The eyes do sometimes lie. But there is a lesson to be learned from this.

Human beings everywhere have been taught in the scientific age that our sense perceptions are basically reliable. In fact, they often aren’t, thus a lot of our fundamental assumptions are incorrect about material reality. Suppose for a moment that our Creator decided that he would make us this way, so that we would not rely too heavily on our sense perceptions? Suppose he even made it so some of the illusions we see are beautiful, but once we discovered they were illusions, we were meant to realize that there is something higher, better, more beautiful, that created all this? Suppose the empirical evidence was meant to point beyond itself to the artist himself who is no illusion, and no mere example of ‘what you don’t see, you don’t get’? What if the most important things in life are not capable of being known in detail through the five senses? Not able to be analyzed under the microscope? Things like love, or God or the afterlife?

Suppose creation is God’s shock and awe show meant to point us beyond itself to something much more marvelous, something that is phenomenal, not mere phenomenology? The psalmist once said “When I consider the works of thy fingers, the sun the moon and the stars. What are humans that you even consider us? And yet you have made us but a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor. O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is thy name in all the earth.’

Suppose the message of all creation is not— trust your senses, or trust your instincts, but rather trust God?

The story is told about the astronomer Jastrow who once said words to the effect of the following: “I fear that when we’ve finished climbing the mountain of empirical data, trying to understand the origins and meaning of life, when we get to the top of that mountain there will be a theologian already sitting there and saying— ‘See, I told you so.’”

Think on these things.


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