Saturday, February 14, 2009

Existential Argument for God

In my last blog, I discussed the convergence of faith and reason. If you think the two are mutually exclusive, you will want to read it before proceeding.

The reasons for my Christian faith fall into two categories; existential and propositional.

The existential arguments for God appeal to our longings, our human nature, our needs. These arguments views these things as "signposts" pointing to the existence of God. C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton before him provide excellent existential arguments for God.

C.S. Lewis wrote:
"Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism." --The Abolition of Man

Check your motives. If you are an emotionally unhealthy person, you are a likely candidate for NOT getting the truth right. Our emotions filter (bias) how we see the world.

Lewis also stated:
"For me, reason is the natural organ of truth, and imagination is the organ of understanding."

The existential arguments for God are broad. They do more to tell us of His existence than who He might be.
The propositional arguments for God are more specific and go farther in that they attempt to tell us WHICH God and WHO he may be. It is at this propositional level that I come to believe in the Christian God.

Today, I will attempt to present some existential arguments for God. In my next blog, I will present the propositional arguments for a Christian God.

There is a song by the band "Extreme" called "Hole Hearted". In it, they speak of the universal longing that we all have when they say, "There's a hole in my heart and it only can be filled by you." The song is likely talking about a romantic relationship. It is interesting that the landscape of music, as well as the rest of the modern arts, is dominated by romantic and sensual longings. Is there anything in this life that really satisfies these desires?

Feminist writer Anias Nin (NOTE: not a traditional religious type) once wrote:
"Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous." Winter, 1931-1932 from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One 1931-1934

She also wrote:
"I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls." July 7, 1934 from incest, from a journal of love

Nin expresses what I believe to be a human truth. We all long for something or someone to fill a God shaped hole. Everyone tries to fill it in different ways including romantic relationships, sensuality, drugs and alcohol, hobbies, friendships, family and children, materialism and more...

One of the best illustrations that I remember C.S. Lewis used to illustrate the truths of these "signposts" was regarding the stomach. He observed that just as the stomach's need to be filled with food was evidence that food exists, so the heart's need to be filled is proof that there is something that exists which can fill it.

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
--Mere Christianity

Elvis Presley had it all. He had fame, wealth, talent. He once stated that he had lived every dream that he had ever had a thousand times. Yet he died a premature death, addicted to pain killers. What pain was he trying to kill? If HE couldn't fill this hole in his heart, then how can anyone who has less?

Belief in God gives life purpose. The ultimate expression of this purpose is to enjoy God's presence. This is what Christianity calls worship. Worship is the ecstasy that Anias Nin sought. It is the culmination of every romantic desire. It is the thirst that drives us to seek the thrill, once obtained, is gone just as quickly.

"I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation." -- C.S. Lewis in "Reflections on the Psalms"

Lewis calls it Joy. Lewis was a confirmed bachelor (or so he thought). One of the books that he wrote was entitled "Surprised By Joy". Later in his life, he was pleasantly surprised to find that he had fallen in love. He married this woman who just so happened to be named Joy.

" it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy... Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic... in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again." [Surprised By Joy 17-18]

But Lewis' first encounter with what he calls "Joy" was when he was a little boy. His brother had built a toy garden. When he saw the garden, he wrote: "It made me aware of nature--not, indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colors but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant. . . . As long as I live my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother's toy garden."

He went on to say later in his life: "It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden . . . comes somewhere near it,"

Do you find yourself trying to feed a hole in your heart? What do you try to feed "the monster" with? Do you try to feed it with the things the band Extreme wrote about in another song entitled, "Its a Monster"?

"It's on my mind most of the time
That's when you find we all go blind
Then it will start to get in our hearts
It's gone too far, that's who we are
It's a monster
We all have within us
It's a monster
It's a monster
Turns us into sinners
It's a monster"

Augustine called this longing "The God Shaped Hole". If it is God shaped, then only He can fill it. But who is this God that we long for? We'll explore that question in the next posting.

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