After fifty-four years of life, I am convinced that beauty makes us wonder and wondering produces love. Love drives us to seek the beloved and then we find God. This is the love of wisdom and while tools of analytic philosophy are priceless, they are not the love itself.
Love moves me.
As a result, fear is gone. Here are four rules at fifty-four for my life:
- This side of Paradise, thank God, the discussion never ends. Keep listening, asking questions.
- Follow the argument (the Logos) wherever He leads.
- Find the good and love the good first. Oppose the twisted and broken good only afterward.
- The “fear” that love brings is the humility of the lover, not disabling fear of the fundamentalist. Humility brings wisdom and wisdom produces more love.
All the loves begin in persons, not in ideas.
Ideas are glorious, but they are known when incarnate. I listen and see the incarnation of an idea in a scholar like Al Geier and that moves me to wonder about truth, goodness, and beauty. This is a process that will end only in death when I will see and know. Glorious!
A result of all this wondering has led me to answer this question from my summer interlocutor M*:
4. Assuming for the sake of argument that God created everything (deism), what evidence compels you to believe God is actively still engaged in the affairs of the world (theism)?
Theism, it seems to me, is pretty obviously the best explanation of the evidence we have. Academic atheism remains possible for the rational person, but the shrillness of folk atheism is an indication that things have not gone well for atheism. Cutting edge science from the Big Bang to the “hard problem” of consciousness points to a cosmos more complicated than simplistic materialism. Philosophy has turned from ignoring religious concerns (around the time of the 1950’s) to most good departments including discussion of theistic ideas. This has gone so well for theism in general that fringe types would like to end the discussion!
In philosophy, however, nobody rings a bell when an idea is knocked out.
Theism is not the same as an active God. The good God could have created the world out of His own goodness (Aristotle) without even considering the creation. God might be good, but even Plato wondered if a good God could pay any attention to such people as we are.
How do we get from the immaterialism of the complex cosmos (numbers, ideas, God) to an active personal creator who loves us?
For a philosophically robust view, start with Richard Swinburne as one always should. In a short commentary, let me list my reasons (without long explanation) for not being a mere deist, but a mere Christian! (And then . . . I became merely Orthodox, but that is a further argument!).
The Bible is too profound and interesting to just dismiss.
Jesus is real, alive, and present in my life. This is the beginning of it all. When you walk with him, talk with him, and know a person, then you have trouble doubting His existence. Of course, you may be mad. You experience the world in your mind, all of it, and maybe some bias has overwhelmed me.
But still, that Jesus is there when I call out to Him in an experience that has a quality unlike other experiences in my life, counts. He is that good.
I read and teach great literature for a living and the Gospels have a quality not found in Homer or even Plato. The books of the Bible, taken as a whole, witness to something more than deism and I find the evidence for Christ’s resurrection compelling when combined with my experience of Jesus.
Most other religions lack this combination of historicity and experience. Many find the divine, but few can unite the historical and the immediately experiential.
All presently proposed naturalistic mechanisms for the existence of life strike me as implausible and inadequate. Divine participation in guiding evolution (at a minimum) seems possible to me. I don’t say this merely because of the failure of materialism, but because a divine Mind seems the best or simplest explanation for the change and development we see. In an open philosophy of science, investigators are open to personal causation. In the areas of psychology and biology, personal causation (God?) seems increasingly plausible to explain the existence of life, consciousness, and the world we experience.
My experiences of God are not unique.
I have experienced miracles in my life and witnessed the same. Since I am living my life, and not documenting it for skeptics, I do not use those as proof to others. However, when I look at the world, my experiences are not unique. Miracles deny nothing we know. Evidence for the existence of miracles is strong and responses to those experiences strike me as special pleading.
The widespread existence of religious experience is most easily explained by an interventionist deity. Perhaps I have misunderstood who He is, but that there is a divine and it is not silent seems true to me. Still, fundamentally we begin with what we experience. We might misunderstand, be mad, or make mistakes, and so we follow the argument best we can!
If we are wrong, then we will change as we can, but a sensible, rational, good person saves good experience if he can.
Papaw Earl had a favorite hymn and it is one of mine:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.
*M is a non-Christian that sent me 55 questions earlier this year. He has asked that I not reveal his or her name. I will write as if “he” is a male, but this is for convenience. I do not know if I will get to all his questions. I try to limit my answers to hundreds and not thousands of words. Here are questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 47, 54 , and 55.
This post was edited by Rachel Motte.