Warm hearts……and relentless persuasion

i started off this series of blogs by proposing a fairly scandalous statement as the first  principle of all theology, namely:

ALL GODS ARE INVENTED BY HUMAN BEINGS

But I went on to argue that a human invention should not necessarily be thought of as unreal. Scientists have invented our modern picture of the universe, but we think of the picture as ‘real’ or at any rate as pointing towards reality. My knowledge of history tends to suggest that the present day scientific picture will look fairly primitive in a thousand years time, but I am happy to see it as a reasonable approximation, which is at least pointing in the right direction.

Stephen Hawking
A beautiful mind

Then I asked what evidence existed to back up the human invention of a creator God. In my last blog I took the human mind with its extraordinary capacities as an indication that the evolutionary process that produced it flows from a source which is itself intelligent.

My second piece of evidence is human goodness. Simone Weil pointed to the almost ineradicable human conviction that we ought to be treated well. We may forget that our neighbours should be treated well, but even hard-hearted people are often convinced that they should be treated well. This faith in goodness, she says, is our link with God. The source of goodness is God, and the link with that source constitutes humanity. If we lose that link because of our own brutality or the brutality of others, we are no longer human.

I was reminded of this last week when I listened a report on radio of what had happened in the city of Leeds during the recent floods, when many families were made homeless. People of all races and religions came together to resource a communal kitchen which provided hot meals for all affected by the floods, while also being an unofficial centre for other forms of help. The woman in charge of the kitchen told reporters that she had been in tears much of the time, not out of grief, but out of astonishment at the communal outpouring of love. Where had it all come from, she wondered.

image
Outpouring of love

it is often the case, that when human hearts are opened to the need of other human beings, or of our planet and its creatures, the goodness done is felt to have been a gift received as much as an ideal achieved. People speak of being a channel for a goodness which has come from beyond themselves.

Of course this is not any sort of proof of God, but it is evidence that goodness is not fully understood in terms of evolutionary biology, and that belief in God as a source of goodness is not wholly without a basis. It may be that when we are open to goodness, we are linked with the relentless persuasion of God who wants our help in perfecting his creation. Only when that has happened will God be able to look at his creation and see, in the words of Genesis, “that it is very good.”

I want to emphasise that my arguments from the existence of the human mind and from human goodness are not to be taken as ‘proofs of God’s existence’ but rather as evidence that when I believe in God I am not doing something completely irrational, as Richard Dawkins has argued. Of course my way of thinking about faith has implications for the way I think about Jesus, which will be the subject of my next blog on this site.

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