Does Spirituality/Religion Prove the Existence of God? (NT Wright)

BeliefOne might ask if it is reasonable to have faith in God or the supernatural.  Many of the new atheists and secularists say that faith is an utterly unreasonable assertion that cannot be proven in any regard. They say that we should only trust what can be proven and observed and since God cannot be proven and "faith" cannot be verified, it is therefore unreasonable – or, it is something apart from reason that moves into what Francis Schaeffer called the "Upper Story" of the mystical and mythical as opposed to the "Lower Story" of the logical and reasonable.

In the book, belief: readings on the reason for faith edited by Francis S. Collins, NT Wright develops what I believe to be a compelling argument regarding the existence of faith, religion, and spirituality.  It is not conclusive, but it is compelling, in my opinion, and should be considered.  Wright says,

The Christian explanation of the renewed interest in spirituality is quite straightforward. If anything like the Christian story is in fact true (in other words, if there is a God whom we can know most clearly in Jesus), this interest is exactly what we should expect; because in Jesus we glimpse a God who loves people and wants them to know and respond to that love. In fact, this is what we should expect if any of the stories told by religious people – that is, the great majority of people who have ever lived – are true: if there is any kind of divine force or being, it is at least thinkable that humans would find some kind of engagement with this being or power to be an attractive or at least interesting phenomenon.

This is precisely why there are such things as religions in the first place. When the astronomers see that a planet is behaving in a way they can't explain by reference to other already known planets, or to the sun itself, they postulate a further planet of a sort, size, and location that will explain the strange behavior. That's actually how the remoter planets were discovered. When physicists discover phenomena they can explain by no other means, they postulate new entities, not themselves capable of being directly observed, that explain them. That's how quarks and similar strange things have entered our language and understanding.

On the other hand, part of the Christian story (and for that matter, the Jewish and Muslim stories) is that human beings have been so seriously damaged by evil that what they need isn't simply better self-knowledge, or better social conditions, but help, and indeed rescue, from outside themselves. We should expect that in the quest for spiritual life many people will embrace options that are, to put it no more strongly for the moment, less than what would actually be best for them. People who have been starved of water for a long time will drink anything, even if it is polluted. People kept without food for long periods will eat anything they can find, from grass to uncooked meat. Thus, by itself, 'spirituality' may appear to be part of the problem as well as part of the solution.

Wright is saying that our quest for spirituality through religion and mystical experiences and encounters with the Divine is, in itself, a form of proof that there is something out there that we cannot quite grasp or explain – but, it is there nonetheless. Instead of assuming that almost the entire human race is deluded (and even atheists define themselves over and against the idea of religion and a quest for God, thus, even as unbelievers they are dominated by the thought of it), we might rather agree with Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men.

Wright goes on to say,

…we return to the possibility that the widespread hunger for spirituality, which has been reported in various ways across the whole of human experience, is a genuine signpost to something that remains just around the corner, out of sight. It may be the echo of a voice – a voice that is calling, not so loudly as to compel us to listen whether we choose to or not, but not so quietly as to be drowned out altogether by the noises going on in our heads and our world. If it were to join itself up with the passion for justice, some might conclude that it would at least be worth listening for further echoes of the same voice.

Perhaps, the echoes that we hear of a Voice that we hope and even know to the be there are actually coming from a hill in Galilee 2000 years ago where a Jewish Messiah was crucified and, as his followers claim, was raised from the dead. That is quite a jump, I know, but if true, it changes everything.

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