Part two of The Reason for God begins with a discussion of the reasons for faith. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with clues for the existence of God. These clues are found within nature and within ourselves. There is no logically incontrovertible evidence for the existence of God – but the preponderance of the evidence can be persuasive. N. T. Wright in Simply Christian touches on some of the same ground – the title of this post Echoes of a Voice comes from Wright’s book. This expression provides the right kind of image.
The clues. What are these clues for the existence of God?
Wright sees four voices providing evidence for something beyond the merely material, human, present: (1) Justice and fairness, (2) the urge for spirituality, (3) the power and pain of human relationships, and (4) beauty.
Keller considers echoes in aspects of nature and natural theology in addition to the echoes described by Wright. The various major points he raises can be summarized as follows:
1. The origin of the Universe – did the Universe simply flash into being? All of the scientific evidence points to an origin for the universe in a flash of energy from an infinitesimally small point. Before that – we know nothing.
2. The fine-tuning of the universe for life. Life is rare in our universe – and dependent upon an exquisite balance of conditions. The “odds” for us to exist are small, some claim infinitesimally small.
3. The regularity of nature.
4. Beauty. Art, music, nature … Are beauty, love, and longing simply biochemical responses inherited to increase survival probability? We may,therefore, be secular materialists… But in the presence of art or even great natural beauty, our hearts tell us another story. (p. 134)
5. The desire for God, for meaning. This can be rationalized – but an evolutionary explanation is a tacit acknowledgment that there is ultimately no meaning or purpose.
6. Moral law, moral obligation. We are told that all moral values are relative – live and let live. But do any of us actually believe this? The presence of moral law, moral obligation, and altruism are capable of evolutionary explanation – and such an instinct may well provide a survival advantage to the species. Of course – now that we have evolved and learned enough to know that morality is nothing but instinct why should we care? If there is no God there is ultimately no rationally demonstrable distinction between moral and immoral or amoral behavior.
Premise: We all know God exists. Keller frames the ultimate question like this:
If you believe human rights are a reality, then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists. This leads us to a crucial question. If a premise ( “There is no God”) leads to a conclusion you know isn’t true ( “Napalming babies is culturally relative”) then why not change the premise? (p. 156)
Keller takes this a bit further than I would. He doesn’t claim to prove the existence of God. Rather he tries to show that we all on some level believe in a God of some sort – because we all believe that there is such a thing as right and wrong. Given this there are two options – We can refuse to consider the full implications of an empty bench, a world with no judge. After all if this universe is purely material in a few million (or billion) years there will be no life around to remember the pain or the beauty. All we have a individuals, as species, as life at all, is a brief flicker. The other option is to accept the fact that you know that there is meaning in life and look for the God that gives meaning to the world.
Merely recognizing this, if you feel Keller has made his point, doesn’t get us to the God of Christian faith. Secular materialism is bankrupt according to Keller — but…where do we go from here? Well that starts in the next chapter and the next post of course.
How about you? What do you find to be convincing evidence for the existence of God?
Do you find Keller’s argument that we all know there is a God of some sort convincing?
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.