Theology And The Quest For Truth

Theology can provide a very good answer to why w*e can trust our minds. We can trust them because, prior to any process of reasoning or empirical inquiry, each of us, simply by virtue of being or existing, is already encompassed by infinite Being, Meaning, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We awTaken only slowly and obscurely into this unfathomably deep and liberating environment and are bathed in it all our days. We cannot focus on it, and we may not even notice it at all since, like fish in a liver, we are so deeply immersed in it. But we may trust our capacity to search for meaning, truth, goodness, and beauty because these have already beckoned and begun to carry us away. Faith, at bottom, is our gracious and enlivening assent to this momentous invitation.

How, then, can we justify our cognitional confidence? Not by looking back scientifically at what our minds evolved from, informative lis that may be, but only by looking forward toward the infinite meaning and truth looming elusively on the horizon. Simply by reaching toward the fullness of being, truth, goodness, and beauty, we are already in its grasp. This is the true ground of our cognitional confidence, and faith and trust allow us to be drawn toward that horizon in the first place. As we entrust ourselves to the call of being and truth, our minds arc already being ennobled by the excellence of the goal toward which they are moved- As our minds are being drawn toward truth, these minds already partake of that for which they hunger, This is what gives our minds the confidence they need to search for truth.

The undeniable trust that empowers our search for understanding and truth does nor show up in the daylight arena of objects on which scientists can focus. This trust arises from the deepest and most hidden recesses of our consciousness, at a level of depth that w e can never bring into clear focus since the very act of focusing cannot take place without it. But even if we cannot grasp meaning and truth in an absolute and final way, we can allow them to grasp us. In surrendering to meaning and truth we are performing an essentially religious act, one in which even the atheist is an unwitting participant.

Science is simply not wired to either detect or rule out the existence of God, God is nor a hypothesis, Nevertheless, even though science itself cannot pick up any distinct traces of the divine, this does not mean that God is totally out of the mind's range. At a usually tacit level of awareness, both the atheist and the theist participate in a common faith- They both believe that reality is intelligible and that truth is worth seeking. What theology adds is that the existence of God—that is3 of Infinite Being, Meaning, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty—provides an adequate justification of this belief, as well as an answer to the question of why the universe is intelligible at alh There is nothing unseemly about beginning intellectual inquiry by making this implicit profession of faith. What is unseemly, indeed irrational, is an attempt to cover up this faith and, at the same time, a refusa] to look for an adequate justification of it.

Theology, therefore, does not compete with science by looking for evidence to support a paltry God hypothesis. On the contrary* theology—a term that I am using in the sense of a Barth or Tillich—rightly objects to the atheists device of collapsing the mystery of God into a set of propositions that can compete with, and then lose out to, science. 1 heology simply does not have to play such a ridiculous game, nor does it have ro stoop to ihe level of silliness implied in the atheists' caricatures. Dawkins and his associates declare that reference to Cod is unreasonable, but what is really unreasonable is their refusal to look for an ultimate explanation as to why the universe is intelligible, why truth is wonh seeking, and why we can trust our minds as they reach toward deeper understanding and truth.

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