The truth most needed today is that the end is never the right end. The beginning is the right end at which to begin. The modern man reads everything backwards. He is like a blind man exploring an elephant, and condemned to begin at the very tip of its tail. But, he is still more unlucky; for when he has a first principle, it is generally the very last principle that he ought to have. He starts, as it were, with one infallible dogma about the elephant; that its tail is its trunk. He works that wrong way round on principle, and tries to fit all the practical facts into his principle. Because the elephant has no eyes is its tail-end, he calls it a blind elephant; and lectures on its ignorance, superstition, and lack of education. Because it has no tusks at its tail-end, he says that the tusks are a fantastic flourish attributed to a fabulous fanciful creature. Because it does not as a rule pick up things with its tail, he dismisses the magical story that it can pick up things with its trunk. He probably says it is plainly a piece of anthropomorphism to suppose that an elephant can pack its trunk. He becomes a pessimist; the world to him is not only an elephant, but a white elephant. He does not know what to do with it, and cannot be persuaded of the perfectly simple explanation; which is that he has not made the smallest real attempt to make head or tail of the animal. He will not begin at the right end; because he happens to have come first on the wrong end.
Having arrived at the wrong end, we have a problem: the problem of induction. The inductive method, this superstitious belief in the unchanging repetition of the universe as we know it, continues to see its own reflection as it glances at the history of the world. Perhaps we should call this tendency to see its own reflection “Inductomorphism”. The scientist has grasped evolution by the tail because that is the only thing he can grasp; and has declared, by the power of Inductomorphism, there were no “eyes” in its beginning. He sees no purpose at the end and declares the same for life’s beginning. He has grasped his ignorance and called it intelligence. Now, only the religious man keeps the scientist in check because the religious man has always started at the beginning. It is the religious man who sees the world rightly as being backwards. He is not afraid to give modern intelligence its rightful name: ignorance. Only when we look backward in time without our modern spectacles do we see how much younger is the Tree of Knowledge than the Tree of Life.
(Much of this is an adaptation of Chesterton and Barfield.)
Where is the wisdom to basing our faith on the shifting sands of modern thinking? Modern knowledge itself is always changing. What we think we know now will be left behind in the future. So, whenever someone feels like nailing something down, they are ridiculed for losing relevance. Yet, if we are relevant, there is no knowledge we can claim, neither is there any wisdom to possess. As I see it, we have two choices here. We can believe in the God that stays the same and even claims to stay the same, or we can be blown about with the winds of change that human reason is so fond of. Where does faith fit in with shifting modern thought? No where. And real faith, if we are able to possess it, must be accessible to all times in human history and all peoples for that is the only way for God to make himself known to all generations. That modern people feel we must deconstruct it is a tragedy of the highest order, and severs the hope of a relationship between God and man.
If you cringe at authority concerning other things in life the way you do at religion you would have to be content to know nothing all of your life. Most of the things we know in this world come from authority. All this really means is that you believe certain things because you get the information from a trustworthy source. People believe in the concept of the solar system, the existence of the atom, and evolution because a scientist or teacher explained it to them. In fact, every historical statement in this world is believed because of authority. No one alive today was present during the Revolutionary War. We believe it happened because we are told it happened.
The point here is that information that is passed to people throughout history is done so on the sole basis of authority. It is a legitimate way of receiving information, otherwise we must be content to only know the things we experience or witness direct from an original source. We would have a closed-minded life indeed if we did the latter.
So, what’s the problem with God then? Why do some people not believe in him? The strange thing is, people are less inclined to believe in God, yet they have no problem believing in the existence of the atom, though most of them have never seen one. It still takes an authority to explain the atom. Nevertheless, the ones who have seen the atom first hand must accept another’s authority in scientific fields they themselves are not authorities in. So, it would seem, there is an endless need for authority. Let’s not forget, however, that these authorities are just as fallible as you and I.
We accept one authority and reject another, but why? We heap to ourselves teachers that tell us what we want to hear. We are always learning, but much of the truth we believe we will never witness to be true ourselves. Sadly, truth takes a backseat to our agenda. Truth then, only stays truth if it happens to fit our views of life.
Does God exist or not? Well, that depends on who you are listening to, and who you trust. It is still up to each man to make his own decision, regardless of what fallible authorities say. Only a first hand experience with God can convince you otherwise, and that takes a little faith. I wouldn’t cringe at the word “faith” either. You already have faith in the authority of your teachers. You can’t say you don’t have any. It’s just a matter of where you place it.
***Update*** See Side Notes April 27, 2010
I watched the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation today. Other than being a trip down nostalgia lane, it was thought provoking. The villain in the story, “Q”, lost no time in putting humanity on trial. He demanded that the crew of the Enterprise answer for the actions of humanity committed throughout history. Picard’s reply was, “Test us. We are not the same as them.”
Although we all want to be part of a group and have friends, in the end we don’t want to be lumped together and judged. Do you feel that you need to answer for everyone else’s actions?
The actions of humanity haven’t always been commendable throughout history: War, genocide, rape, murder, terrorism, creating the TV show Family Matters. However, humanity on trial isn’t feasible. None of us are the same. Each of us react different and have distinct moral standards. There are many folks that murder and many folks who render first aid. Movies like Surrogates and Gamer suggest that man will devolve into his basest instincts and drives if there are no consequences for his actions. An example of this is porn. Porn is a kind of surrogacy. You can’t have sex at that moment so someone else is doing it for you. The porn industry does bring in billions of dollars so it is safe to say many people are filling a void with digital pixels of sexual images. Does this mean that people will always choose basic instincts if no consequences are involved?
I won’t deny that giving in to those drives are appealing. However, if you give yourself over to them you may find that you become a slave. (In the voice of Yoda) Nothing more than a beast you may become.
Being human is more than giving in to an inner drive. We have an ability that other creatures do not have. The ability to choose. We have the ability to do good and evil, but that doesn’t mean we automatically choose evil. So, although Nero may have done terrible things, I didn’t. I chose a different path.
Let us all be judged on our own merits. (That is, if we’re ever judged by “Q”.)