Bags of Bran

The First Fundamental
January 19, 2013, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Apologioi, Bible, Biography

I know Torrey et al. start their argument for fundamentals of the Christian faith with a defense of the Bible, but I think you can’t argue for a Bible without first arguing for a reason for a Bible. In other words, I don’t think God is hiding in the Bible, but has indeed written his glory into the tapestry of creation. We miss it. When we stare for minutes at a Bev Doolittle painting of some birch trees, we do so knowing that our labors will be rewarded with the appearance of a bear, wolf, horse, or Indian: we search in hope that those birch trees are not there simply to hold the sky off of the turf in the painting.

But we do not look at nature for the signature of God. Not on purpose. Incidentally, when a today-flavored person looks at the Bible, he or she is not necessarily looking for a god at all, but usually a reflection of himself or herself. But we are especially obtuse when we look at nature.

There have been some creative suggestions that there is a “gospel in the stars.” The constellations amounted to the stained glass windows in a celestial cathedral, telling the story of redemption to those who would stare long enough to figure it out. The problems with this theory are many, but one key problem is that it makes God the solution to a puzzle of his own making. Contrarily, God has not encoded himself into the universe: he has declared himself.

I think that is why Aquinas’ Five Ways fail to impress us today: there is nothing mystical to us about nature anymore. We know that the sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a giant nuclear furnace, etc. We have seen television come and go, and now have the world at our fingertips on our computers. The only problem is that we have lost the ability to parse it, but who cares? There it is! We know that there are stars and planets, as well as comets; but no Cupid. Good ole science has put a roof over our heads that makes the Five Ways seem like a real waste of mental acumen.

But for the Christian, I believe that thinking through the Five Ways is a good exercise. Recognizing where they point, and what sorts of observations lead to their conclusions: this is fruitful. It is certainly a way to appreciate God more comprehensively and philosophically. As arguments however, they certainly do not get one to the God of the Bible. Perhaps Deism, but not Christianity. Not even monotheism necessarily.

Yet, hypothetically (and setting aside Romans 3 for a moment): if one were to follow the arguments of the Five Ways (the reader is encouraged to look them up if he or she is unfamiliar with them), they would lead to an ultimate conclusion: a brick wall. Who is this Unmoved Mover? What is this Uncaused Cause? What is he like to be dependent upon absolutely nothing; and to have everything that exists be dependent upon him? Is he the perfection of the good things we experience on this side of the wall? What sort of plan does he have for this creation of his?

If we could even get that far unaided, that would be noble of us. If, hypothetically, there were one who tried to feel for God in this manner, he would encounter a brick wall. But all is not lost for that person.


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