The title to the previous post, “A short introduction to what may well be,” was chosen carefully. The sketch I gave there was a sketch of something that may be right, and also, and perhaps more importantly, it is a good possibility—something that may well be, in the sense that it would be well, good, if it were so. All manner of things would be well. And, of course, it might be right in the sense of actually true, too. Or it might not.
But what was I sketching there? Was it a sketch of an entity, a ‘being’? A powerful but strangely hidden ‘being’? No. It was a sketch of being. It was a sketch of what it is to be. It was an attempt to say something about that—something about the fact that existence is a very great richness, and one that we meet, or can meet, in humility and gratitude, and willingness to respond appropriately. Part of that humility is the decision to admit that the truth you encounter may exceed you in all possible ways—including in the ability to be.
All possible ways.
The sense of personhood and agency that we each possess, the sense that we can have opinions of our own, is an important part of the being of a human. It is central to our identity. What theism says is that we are profoundly mistaken if we think the context of our lives cannot meet us at this level—the level of personal interaction, of opinions about what is good and true. In short, truth is not there just to be investigated, like a gravitational field or the rules of genetic inheritance. Truth reaches also into more personally challenging areas, and has to be responded to: loved and obeyed, or dismissed and ignored, or hated and opposed, as people choose.
This is not the sort of thing that can be subjected to dispassionate, passive proof, of the type that science mostly aims to achieve, because it is at a meta-scientific level. You cannot enact a friendship on the basis of purely passive experiment and analysis, because then it would not be a friendship. This enacted relationship is another sort of thing, a sort of living idea: it is the idea of something approximating to friendship, or son- or daughter-ship, in the way we encounter every goodness that finds expression in the world. Or, to be more accurate, it is a sort of son- or daughter-ship, or willing apprentice-hood, with the reality that every goodness is an expression of. Because it turns out that these personal metaphors are the right kind of metaphors.
I repeat, such an idea is not a hypothesis to be summoned to serve some other end, because such a way of living is already the end that is being served. To be plain: there is no ‘God hypothesis’, nor could there ever be, because that very way of speaking is already wrong. ‘Hypothesis’ is just not the sort of territory we are in here. That way of speaking is the attitude of one who cannot hear, or listen. It is like the reaction of someone who, when you say ‘here is a clarinet’, they complain that it is not much use for hammering nails. Because when someone who knows what they are talking about speaks of God, they are not speaking of a servant. They are speaking of a helper, not a servant. But a ‘hypothesis’ is a servant.
There was someone who understood all this whole-heartedly, and lived accordingly. When he talked about it, he often used the metaphor of fatherhood. That is the not the only valid metaphor, but it is the best one, as long as we don’t get too attached to the gender issues associated with that word. Also, we need to adopt an attitude of permanently seeking a better way of seeing what it is all about. This is what the word “Christian” means when it is being used the right way. But that word is so loudly and noisily used by people with other agendas nowadays, that I expect readers of this blog will hardly know what a generous, reasonable, skillful at science, respectful in art, sound in judgement, eager to learn type of person a truly Christian person would be.
This is a home from which you can venture out without losing your home, and it is a home in which you can practice hospitality.