Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Existence of God (without Using a Bible)

If you were to ask me to argue for the existence of God without using a Bible, I would argue along these lines (see my other blog posts for an elaboration of these arguments).

I would argue from a position of conscience, this internal sense of right and wrong that we have written into us; this natural law of the heart that guides us in our moral decisions. And if there are moral laws there is a Moral Lawgiver.

I would argue from a position of design in nature. All that we see and experience in nature has structure built into it. It’s not a random cosmic carwreck that we see; it’s design and if there is design, there is an Intelligent Designer.

I would argue from a position of special revelation or Jesus Christ. Extra-biblical sources verify that Jesus existed during the time period and in the place that he supposedly existed found in the Bible. Furthermore, if he was the Son of God, then there is a First Cause – God the Father.

Finally, I would argue along the lines of the apologetic of human desire. Humans desire truth, beauty, honor, justice, courage, love, heroism. These longings go beyond just our senses. We can’t smell truth or touch love, yet we reach for them. We desire to be free, to discover our self-worth, to correct our immoral behavior, to piece the hurts of life into some larger picture of meaning (Mark Cosgrove). All of these desires are seen clearly in our mass production down through the ages of literature, art, music, worship, and movies, each of them featuring the innermost longings and deepest needs of human beings.

We reach out to worship something, even atheists do. How do you explain this longing for things beyond the natural, empirical realm, and our interest in blogging about them? Just like the presence of appetite presupposes the existence of food, the presence of worship and human longing presupposes that something or Someone exists who can satisfy these longings. And if there are these human desires, then we can conclude that there is a place or experience where they can be ultimately fulfilled – Heaven and a New Earth.

God exists and we don’t even need a Bible to know that this is true. But what the Bible does do for us is that it tells us His Name with specificity and invites us to know Him.

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Filed under Anthropic Principle, Anthropology, Apologetic of Desire, Atheism, Atheist, Beauty, Bible, Christian Worldview, Conscience, Desire, Existentialism, First Cause, Intelligent Design, Pleasure, Theism

Every Joy on Earth is an Inkling, a Whisper of a Greater Joy

We think that our greatest problem is pain and suffering. Indeed, it can be gut-wrenching, but it’s not our biggest problem. Our problem is that we have achieved what we thought would make us happy, and yet we remain unsatisfied. G. K. Chesterton observed that weariness does not come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure. We’ve tried everything we can try in life, and still we are restless.

Deep within the human heart throbs an undying hope that somebody or something will bring a way to retain the wonder of living a fully alive, multisensory life experience, even in the pain and who will not disappoint. The presence of wealth is no protection against the ravages of the soul. Emptiness still stalks the rich, loneliness still haunts the icon, and disappointment still casts its shadow amidst the cheers under the spotlight (Zacharias), and the “liberated new atheist” is no more satisfied than the least informed Christian Theist.

Oscar Wilde was a literary genius – a poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. I have a book of quotations taken from his works. He was one sharp guy. Born in 1854, he won scholarships and was educated in Britain’s best schools. He had earned lots of money and traveled around the world. Yet, at life’s end at the age of forty-six, he died bankrupt and broken with no self-respect due to poor homosexual moral choices he made.

He says “I ruined myself…” He talked about the notoriety and natural gifts that had been given him. “…But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search of a new sensation… I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me… I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop… I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.”

I think we have learned to deal with pain and suffering. What has mastered us though, are these long periods of “senseless and sensual ease” and yet we are not satisfied. Questions of pain and suffering will always plague mankind until the New Creation. But an even greater question is “Why do we remain unsatisfied among blessing and plenty?”

The reason we remain unsatisfied is because we have made a mistake in what we thought would satisfy. Every joy on earth is an inkling, a whisper of a greater joy, but they are not ends in themselves. All of our pleasures point to a Pleasure-Giver. Our life-long nostalgia is a longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off. And that something is actually a Someone. Until He becomes our greatest pleasure, pain and suffering will still perplex and long periods of sensual ease will be our psuedo-joy. We are far too easily pleased when infinite joy is offered.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not mean the universe is a fraud…earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing (The Quotable Lewis).”

The Hedonistic Paradox states that true pleasure is a by-product of a greater pleasure. Until God is our greatest pleasure, unsatisfied senseless and sensual ease will be the lines along which our story moves. All those who refuse or deny God His existence relegate themselves to only the whispers or echoes of a Voice of the One who eventually provides the ultimate fulfillment of all sensory delight.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Hedonistic Paradox, Pleasure, Suffering, Theism, Theodicy, Uncategorized

Parallel Universes – Living Between Two Worlds and Experiencing “Thin Places”

Christian Theists are those with this belief in parallel universes. One universe consists of rock, and glass, and steel, and clothes, and food, and wrestling, and spaghetti, and scented candles, and perfume, and things we can see, feel, hear, taste, and touch.

But another universe consists of angels and sinister spiritual forces and somewhere out there, maybe even closer than we think, but somewhere in another dimension, there are places called Heaven and Hell.

And we can experience what I would call “thin places” between these two universes, where these two worlds merge together more so than they do at other times in empirical terms.

Philip Yancey writes about these times in our lives. “The time I snorkled on a coral reef and suddenly flashes of color and abstract design flitting around me became a window to a Creator who exults in life and beauty. Or the time my wife forgave me for something that did not merit forgiveness – that too became a window, allowing a startling glimpse of divine grace.” “I have these moments, but soon toxic fumes from the material world seep in. Sex appeal! Power! Money! Military might! (Finding God…).” Our “thin places” get thick again.

There is a certain kind of Biblical writer who experienced these thin places, who were especially in tune with God’s whispers, whispers of love in ancient forgotten dusty places. They experienced these “thin places” and wrote about them. They heard the voice of God echo through human experiences and needs and they journaled about these experiences, and even penned songs and poems and prophecies that reflected what they were hearing. They heard the voice echoing in the every day and they wrote down what they heard and experienced. They are called Psalmists. Psalms help us to recognize God’s voice in the everyday. There’s a plurality of voices in the Psalms. In them, we hear the voices of the communities out of which they came and the voices of the writers who wrote them. They contain voices of celebration and of oppression and of protest and of wisdom and of service and of love and romance and beauty and of righting the wrongs in the world. But in, with, and through all this, there is another voice that is heard. The divine voice. God whispers. And His voice echoes through the text, down through the years, into our present day. It’s a voice that whispers in our thin places, ” Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I have experienced several “thin places” in my life. I will never forget those times. It could be a scene from a movie, a song at a symphony, a painting in a museum, a panoramic view of a mountain vista, a love note from a spouse, a forgotten poem on a dusty book shelf – but in these locations a word was spoken, and I heard.

I was reading a 48 chapter book not long ago, and every chapter has a number and then goes right into the content. Only two of these 48 chapters have an excerpt from a poem after the chapter number. One of those chapters in this book has an excerpt from a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Here’s what it said: “Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God. But only those who see take off their shoes.” That poem just filleted me. If we only began to listen, to pay attention, we would hear and see things – God-whisperings, and all the world would be holy ground.

We are always looking elsewhere for God – the great and strong wind that rips mountains apart. “Show me some supernatural revelation of your power, then I might believe you and hear you out.” “Shake this earth at its foundation so that people around the world could feel Your power. Then we might believe in You and serve You and listen to what You have to say.” “Flash flames across the heavens and consume the wicked, then you’ll have our attention.”

But God says, “No. I’d rather just whisper in the everyday in life’s thin-places.” God simply wants to be right where we are at every moment in gentle whisper. The voice of God is all around you. God is not a silent God. God is speaking to us all the time in everything through everyone. It takes a lifetime for us to really understand that God is right in front of us. Most of our lives are spent looking, straining to see and hear God in the cloud, through the miracle, behind the mist, beyond the dark. But it is when we face God in one another, in creation, in the present moment, that the real spiritual journey begins (with help from Chittister).

Thin-places is about encountering God in the places where we usually ignore Him: like at an art museum, or in a fitness center or gymnasium, or a hospital birthing room, in a theater, at an opera, on vacation in the mountains, in a combine in the fields, or on the blog of an atheist. It’s about hearing God even while you may be in a place that you shouldn’t be, like the bed of a stranger or while sitting in divorce court or while cruising for drugs.

What is the gentle, quiet voice of God whispering to you in your thin-place?

“Why don’t you stay and work things out?”
“Forgive him. Let her go free.”
“Lead your family. Help them on their spiritual journey.”
“Surrender your broken life to Me.”
“Turn away from your lovers, your addiction, and let Me love you.”
“Use your resources for kingdom gains.”
“Serve your neighbor.”
“Don’t judge your co-worker; become their friend.”
“Go have this difficult conversation.”
“You’re being selfish and are afraid that someone is going to get more attention than you.”

Listen for the whisper.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Empiricism, Epistemology, Spiritual Life, Theism, Worldview