This is the first entry in what I hope will be a slow developing series of posts on apologetics–the reasons for belief and worship of Hashem. This was written as what I had planned would be the first chapter of a fifty chapter Counting the Omer devotional for between Pesach and Shavuot (Passover and Pentecost). “Man proposes, God disposes” as the saying goes. The ruach ha’kodesh has directed my energies to blogging lately. Since this has been a busy, challenging week personally, I decided to allocate it for this week’s blog entry. Followup chapters may include something like “Why There Is in Fact a God,” “Why God is the God of Israel,” “Why Yeshua Is the Messiah of Israel”, etc. We will see. If you’re eager to hear followup, let me know and I’ll make it a priority.
We can discuss proof for “Why there is a God?” but such discussion would be of little interest to a mind that answers “No” to the question of “Should there be a God?”
People, such as they are, are not wholly governed by rationality. Our rationality is not our “mind”, but an aspect of the mind. Our thought and actions are not governed purely by the most logical means to attain the most rational end, but by dark, primal forces that desire that which does not necessarily tend to life or our best interests—be it an element of “original sin” rooted in a biblical cosmology or vestigial primate thought patterns rooted in evolutionary origins. On this point the religious and the secular tend to agree. So if there are certain unconscious drives, certain biases in our psychological makeup—be they caused by genetics, physical environment, cultural influence, past trauma, or some ubiquitous mysterious demonic force—make no mistake: these biases will distort our ability to answer the question of whether or not there is a God. In other words, at the risk of anthropomorphizing, these biases will commandeer our rationality to serve their own ends.
If we want there to be a God, our mind will summon Plaintiff’s exhibit A, B, C . . . arguing for that fact: cosmological constants, complexity of human life, phenomena of truth and fairness, fulfillment of biblical prophecy, ontological peculiarities, biblical gematrial patterns, accounts of healed cancers and unlikely provision in response to answered prayer, the deep warm fuzzies we get when we’re in church, etc. etc. In rebuttal, the mind that does not want God will rebut with Defendant’s exhibit 1,2,3 . . . of multiverse theory to explain the unlikelihood of our universe, ontological fallacies, genomic evolutionary evidence, non-immanence of God, mockings of Noah’s ark, of stoning children, of religious wars and sleazy tele-evangelists, etc. etc.
Such is the dialogue of most religious vs. secular arguments. But we rarely ask the “why” questions? Why do these parties hold the convictions they have and argue so vehemently for them? Why the vitriol, the dismissal of the other side, the need to defend and offend? Why the conviction of rightness from two different people—both educated, both rational, both law-abiding and tax-paying citizens—on two diametrically opposed points?
The psychology and neurology of religious belief and non-belief are outside the scope of our discussion. My goals are more modest: simply to state that I want there to be a God, that I do not want there to not be a God, that these desires are conducive to human life and any “good” we can commonly agree upon, and that these desires are thus desirable to have.
Admittedly, the notion of the non-existence of God has its appeal. For one, it dodges the tough questions of his apparent absence from the universe and the apparent absence of the miraculous in daily life. Atheism (or a deism or agnosticism which may be de facto atheism) affords a person a sense of groundedness. The universe is grounded on demonstrable universals and constants, not the vicissitudes of invisible imps or the whims of a heavenly thunderer. It is things, and not some Person; objects, and not some Subject, that are of preeminent importance in the atheistic world. Such a paradigm also affords a degree of freedom: freedom from mores, taboos, superstitions which restrain us from being, doing and feeling what we want. In theory, a universe of things, and not a Person, leaves room for our personhood to exalt itself. In theory, a universe of objects, with no Subject, allows us to be a subject, if not the Subject.
In practice, this freedom is illusory.
The minute we attempt to exalt our subjecthood in Zarathustrian humanist hubris, the objecthood of life rears its head. Our mind as object, as we’ve discussed above, is prone to irrationality. Our possessions as objects decay, become cluttered, obsolete, boring, unmanageable, or outright toxic. Our body as object is subject to adverse desires, dysfunction, disease, and all of these objects are subject to time’s relentless entropic march into oblivion. What pleasure we derive from any of these objects is too inadequate and fleeting to fulfill our human desires.
As for our personhood, it is not a Personhood since it is inevitably shared with other personhoods, except perhaps for the lucky few alone in the wilderness, afloat at sea, or jettisoned into deep space. The personhood of others–massed politically and corporately–can be as cruel as the angriest God, as malevolent as the worse devil. The wars, genocides, dictatorships and public thefts of the past century have shown as much, but the personhood of others is adverse even under the best of social circumstances. Step outside of your house and a thousand pairs of eyes are there to meet you, judging, critiquing, labeling and objectifying you. Become “successful”, like a politician or a celebrity, and that number increases to the millions and their envy and depredations become multiplied as much. And behind each of those eyes is a universe of thought and possibility, a kingdom and saga where they are god and narrator . . . and you are but a stereotyped cartoon of who you are or may want to be. You are their object.
I propose then, that if objecthood is inevitable, than what is desirable is a best-case kind of objecthood. And this requires the best-case Subject. The best Subject is the one whose judgment would veto the criticism of all would-be subjects, who would justify the object to all other objects. The best Subject would know the object as well than the object knows himself (if not moreso), and knowing the object so intimately, with all his strengths and faults, would love the object as much (if not moreso) as the object loves himself . The best Subject would guarantee and protect the object’s subjecthood over all objects, never to be decayed or unfairly divested from him again. And the best Subject would protect, preserve and resurrect the mind and body of the object from entropic decay. This Subject would be a loving Father to his children, a loving God to his people. This is the God I want to exist in this universe, and this universe, such as it is, can be made livable for myself, such as I am, only if such a God exists and asserts himself herein on my behalf.