Friday, November 18, 2016

The Existential Thirst That Never Goes Away

Butterfly House, in Whitehouse, Ohio

As a philosophy professor for the past seventeen years I've done a lot of teaching, talking, coffee-breaking, and reasoning with a broad spectrum of students. I spend time teaching and relating to theists, atheists, and don't-know-what-ists.

All of these students have a worldview; very few have evaluated their worldview. This is across the board, no matter what their belief system.

They all have one thing in common, because the deeper we go inside people, the more we are the same in terms of life's important issues. They all have a metaphysical urge for the transcendent. Yes, even if they say they are atheists. 

This is what gives me hope when relating to my philosophy students. In the depths of the human heart there are reasons that not even reason can fully satisfy. As the French philosopher Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing." (Two helpful books here would be Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith, by Clifford Williams, and Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, by Francis Spufford.)

The British writer Theodore Dalrymple confesses, “It is not as easy as one might suppose to rid oneself of the notion of God.” After confessing that he is an atheist, he proceeds to describe the void.

"Believing there is no God does not make the thirst go away. Few of us, especially as we grow older, are entirely comfortable with the idea that life is full of sound and fury but signifies nothing. However much philosophers tell us that it is illogical to fear death, and that at worst it is only the process of dying that we should fear, people still fear death as much as ever. In like fashion, however many times philosophers say that it is up to us ourselves, and to no one else, to find the meaning of life, we continue to long for a transcendent purpose . . . To tell us that we should not feel this longing is a bit like telling someone in the first flush of love that the object of his affections is not worthy of them. The heart hath its reasons that reason knows not of." (Quoted in Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?, p. 31)


I'm now writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church, to be published in late Spring, 2017.

After that - Transformation: How God Shapes the Human Heart.