Tag: Beauty

Does God exist? (Reading Keller)

Can I believe in God without crossing my fingers or turning off my brain?  That’s one of the main questions that I’m hoping to address with my ongoing God project.  Timothy Keller faces this kind of general question in two consecutive chapters titled “Clues for God” and “The Knowledge of God” in his book The Reason for God.

Nature as Evidence of God

Keller doesn’t think that one specific argument or group of arguments could (or should) convince every single rational person that God exists, so Keller doesn’t put all of his eggs in one basket.  Instead, he cycles through a variety of arguments that point to a transcendent Being.

Something had to make the Big Bang happen-but what?  What could that be but something outside of nature, a supernatural, noncontingent being that exists from itself.

-Timothy Keller, The Reason for God [1]

What could cause our current system of cause-and-effect?  According to Keller, only something outside of that chain – something god-like.

For organic life to exist, the fundamental regularities and constants of physics . . . must all have values that together fall into an extremely narrow range.  The probability of this perfect calibration happening by chance is so tiny as to be statistically negligible. [2]

Our world seems fine-tuned, as though it were deliberately created to make life possible.  Maybe it was deliberately created!

. . . science cannot prove the continued regularity of nature, it can only take it on faith. [3]

The laws of nature are consistent and reliable.  Why would this be unless there is a God sustaining our world?

Thankfully, Keller acknowledges that these arguments are not airtight.  But remember, Keller isn’t claiming to present any single argument that will force all rational people to believe in God.  Instead, he’s making the case that theism is better than atheism at explaining existence, our universe, and the laws of nature.  At best, these arguments might nudge skeptics a few inches closer to belief in God.

I appreciate Keller’s approach.  Yet I do not sense that any of his arguments settles anything for me.  It all seems so speculative.  For what it’s worth, the fine-tuned universe argument strikes me as the most persuasive.

Beauty and Morality

…regardless of the beliefs of our mind about the random meaninglessness of life, before the face of beauty we know better. [4]

Isn’t it true that innate desires correspond to real objects that can satisfy them . . . ?  Doesn’t the unfulfillable longing evoked by beauty qualify as an innate desire? [5]

Good art tells us that our life really matters, as though our finite lives have inherent, objective value, as though we really matter to God.  Our experience of beauty is like an itch that can never quite be scratched, pointing to a divine Itch-Scratcher.

In a similar vein, doesn’t our sense of right vs. wrong, especially when it comes to human rights, point to some objective morality?  Or is the conviction that genocide is wrong purely a matter of unproveable personal preference?

If there is no God, then there is no way to say any one action is “moral” and another “immoral” but only “I like this.”  If that is the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings into law? [6]

As far as I can tell, both of these arguments are ultimately inconclusive.  Maybe humans long for Absolute beauty, and maybe we try to force our moral opinions on each other as though they were God-given.  Yet this does not mean that a perfectly beautiful and just Being necessarily exists.  This could just as easily be evidence that humans have invented their gods in order to rationalize their pursuit of beauty and justice.  Where Keller and many other Christians throughout history see a “god-shaped hole” in human beings, atheists can just as easily see a hole-shaped god – a fairy tale made up by superstitious wishful thinkers who were too afraid to admit that their opinions are no more than opinions.

Does God exist?

If these two chapters have done anything, they have simply clarified the important questions for me:  Do I believe in God because I’m too afraid to face an uncertain universe, morality without guarantees, and the unfulfilled longing for beauty?  The more believe-able and vital God is to the human psyche, the harder it is to determine whether humans are created in the image of God or God is created in the image of humans.  Only a detestable and irrelevant god could be immune from charges of imaginative wishful thinking- but even then, such a god would most deserve to be doubted.

Is God a projection?  Keller thinks the evidence points in one direction.  Richard Dawkins, who I will read next, thinks it points in the other.  So far, I don’t see how speculating about beauty, morality, or the origin of the universe could sway me very far in either direction.

References

[1] Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. 133. Print.

[2] Ibid. 134. Print.

[3] Ibid. 136. Print.

[4] Ibid. 139. Print.

[5] Ibid. 139. Print.

[6] Ibid. 159. Print.