Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Conversion by Way of Evil, Part 4

See part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

So, I had come to believe that only supernatural origins are able to explain, ultimately, the reality of both good and evil acted out in human life in all its complexity. And I became certain that this source influencing us toward actions that we call good (for the very meaning of "the good" entails this) is superior to that source influencing us to do what we call evil.

Again, if only nature were at play in the sphere of human action--with no supernatural influence involved--it should be the case that I should be able to always do that which I have decided rationally is the best thing to do. But I can't, and I don't. This split between the knowledge of the good and what I actually do bores a hole right through any merely utilitarian or pragmatic attempt to explain human moral sensibility--most especially in considering the wretchedness that lies in waiting at the darkest depths of our worst selves. This is no mere realm of earthly nature.

So, what is this "good"--this beyond-nature source of moral influence in human life that is superior to that which pulls us toward evil? I will speak in a very summary fashion. The source of goodness must be singular--one (there does not seem to be a competition among multiple systems of goodness). This is our human experience. Search our conscience, our heart, our soul, our psyche, and we find there a spiritual wellspring gently pointing us toward the good which is entirely consistent, whole, integral, of-a-piece, with itself. It is one. I do not wonder whether that which guides me to prefer beauty over ugliness, or love over hatred, or honesty over deceitfulness, is multiple or is singular. It speaks to my heart with a unified, singular voice. It is a single orchestra playing with perfect harmony. Or, more accurately, a single benevolent power, speaking to me through various spiritual instruments that nonetheless are perfectly attentive to his one conductor's wand. This does not mean that there are no competing voices in my heart, but, I recognize them as such. Powers that try to bend me toward depravity and selfishness I realize are different powers than that one unified influence which beckons me to choose the good.

Why does this superior, unified, spiritual power have any interest in me??? Why should there be any such thing as some beyond-nature being who cares one whit what I do with my life??? These are highly perplexing questions.

Philosophically I realized, if there is such a thing as god (meaning, one single supernatural being who is all-powerful), it can not be the case that god--a real god, that is--could have any need whatsoever for human beings. For if a supposed god had any need for us he/it would not be god. Any being who needs other beings for anything, well, what kind of a god is that? Not much of a god if he/it is not all-sufficient within himself. No, god is not god if he has to seek outside himself to supply some lack within.

So, back to the question. The explanation for god's manifest interest in human life cannot be--it is philosophically impossible--that he needs to be interested in us. In other words, if god is god, we cannot be for him a source of good that he does not already contain fully in himself. If all good does not reside in all fullness in him, god is not god. A god that has to take an interest in human beings in order to gain something he lacks within, is not god. As I thought about all this, I came to this conclusion: the only explanation for god's (the singular source of all goodness) interest in we human beings has to be because he loves us! It's not because we provide something he needs. He is interested in us out of sheer goodness--out of love--out of benevolent regard for us to be good ourselves. Nothing else (if god is god--a robust, full, real god--not some wimpy half-god who needs stuff from mere human beings) makes any rational sense!

I thought about this quite a bit. I tried to come up with a philosophically satisfactory alternative explanation that answers the question why does god (understood as the all-powerful, singular source of all goodness) have an interest in human life if not because of a completely gratuitous love? Can there be any other explanation? I concluded--no. Rationally, philosophically speaking, if god is god (lacking in nothing) only one reason offers any sensible explanation as to why he should care about human beings at all--sheer love; love freely given out of total, simple generosity, and not out of any necessity. I tried to find alternative explanations for god's interest, and there are none. The only way you can find an alternative possibility to god's regard for human life than freely given love is if you demote god to less than god so that his interest can then be explained in virtue of some necessity in him to go outside himself.

And, I have not traced this line of thinking out here, but along with all of this I was realizing as well that because of the nature of the good and its influence on human life, of its unified character, and because love is the only philosophically tenable explanation for god's having any interest in us at all, god (now, capital 'G,' God) must be personal. God is a personal being! He has to be if the reason He cares about us is because of love. Non-personal beings cannot love. I had become utterly convinced that God cares about us because He must love us. And therefore, He must be personal.

I had become a thoroughly convinced and believing theist, believing not only that God exists (as the only reasonable explanation for the source of goodness in the cosmos and for its unfailing superiority over evil), but that He is a personal being who loves us out of a freely chosen gratuitous love--that He is interested in us because He loves us; that, in fact, . . . He . . . loves . . . ME!!!

This totally rocked my world. I was no longer alone in the cosmos. I had come to know that I live under the benevolent regard of a personal God who loves me out of His sheer goodness. Thanks be to God! I started thanking Him for life, for His care, for creation.

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