Enlightenment and the Bible

One of the responses to yesterday’s item was this insightful comment: “[A] lot of people have the impression that they would be different. They’ll say, “Sure, those silly Israelites made that mistake, but certainly I wouldn’t. *I* would listen to God and would never forsake Him if only I saw him once.”  In other words, the interpretive question that must be answered about the narrative I shared from Deuteronomy is: are we similar to those “silly Israelites”?

Initially, we have many reasons to think, no, we’re quite different.  If you can access this blog, you are literate, able to navigate the Internet, and enjoy some measure of affluence to have the time, energy and resources to do so.  It seems as if there has been some significant progress in quality of life in the past 4,000 years.  When it comes to education, health care, technological innovation, and on and on and on, we’ve come a long way from a ragtag bunch of nomadic tribes wandering around in the wilderness (or from the other human groups of that time).

There’s also reason to believe that we’ve advanced both religiously and spiritually.  For many atheists, the fog of superstition and blind creed has been swept away by the shining light of science.  From a Christian perspective, and many other religions, since that time there has been further revelation from God that deepens our understanding of who God is. It seems that no matter where you stand, we would all agree that we are in a better position to know God (or know that God is not) than these Israelites were.

In many ways, I can only concede the inexorable reasonableness of these considerations. To deny such obvious and well-evidenced truths about the many ways we are advantaged in our understanding of God would be like sticking my head in the proverbial sand.  At the same time, if we only give attention to these truths, we might miss a subtle but crucial continuity between us and these Israelites: that human pride has remained an enduring constant.

Another friend challenged the ideas from yesterday, asking whether or not there was any positive evidence for the Christian faith, or just appeals to submit to God in spite of any proof.  It was and is a good question.  I think the truth is that all of us, to one degree or another, have substantial problems with the idea of a cosmic authority-figure who might want to tell us how to live our lives.  Here’s Thomas Nagel, an atheistic professor at NYU:

“..I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally, hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

Now certainly Nagel doesn’t speak for all atheists or, perhaps, even most of them.  But I will allow that he does speak for me, at least to some degree.  Search your heart – does this honest reflection resonate with you?  To the degree that it does, it becomes clear that while we certainly do need evidence to rationally believe in Christianity, or any other worldview, we will also need more than just evidence if we are to come to a belief in God.