Christianity agrees with Hamlet when he said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy.” Reductionistic worldviews insist that there are fewer things in heaven and earth. Living according to these worldviews is like living in a concrete bunker with no windows. Communicating a Christian worldview should be like inviting people to open the door and come out. Our message ought to express the joy of leading captives out of a small, cramped world into one that is expansive and liberating.
One of the most militant atheists among the Oxford faculty, T. D. Weldon, sat in C. S. Lewis’ [at that time still an atheist] room one evening and remarked that the historical authenticity of the Gospels was surprising sound. This deeply disturbed Lewis. He immediately understood the implications. If this “hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew” thought the Gospels true, where did that leave him? Where could he turn? “Was there no escape?” He had considered the New Testament’s stories to be myth, not historical fact. If they were true, he realized all other truth faded in significance. Did this mean his whole life was headed in the wrong direction?
Lewis remembered an incident that happened several years earlier—on the first day he arrived at Oxford as a teenager. He left the train station carrying his bags and began to walk in the direction of the college, anticipating his first glimpse of the “fabled cluster of spires and towers” he had heard and dreamed of for so many years. As he walked and headed into the open country, he could see no sign of the great university. When he turned around, he noticed the majestic college spires and towers on the opposite side of the town and realized he was headed in the wrong direction. Lewis wrote many years later in his autobiography, “I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life.”
I tended at this stage to think of my Christian faith as a philosophy of life, not a religion. I had grasped something of its intellectual appeal but had yet to discover its imaginative, ethical and spiritual depths. I had a sense of standing on the threshold of something beautiful and amazing, which my reason had tantalizingly only grasped in part. Like Einstein, I realized that nature “shows us only the lions tail,” while hinting at the majesty and grandeur of the magnificent animal to which it is attached—and to which it ultimately leads.
I was taught at school, when I had done a sum, to “prove my answer”. The proof or verification of my Christian answer to the cosmic sum is this. When I accept Theology I may find difficulties, at this point or that, in harmonizing it with some particular truths which are embedded in the mythical cosmology derived from science. But I can get in, or allow for, science as a whole.
Granted that Reason is prior to matter and that the light of the primal Reason illuminates finite minds, I can understand how men should come by observation and inference, to know a lot about the universe they live in. If, on the other hand, I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole, then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit in science. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. And this is to me the final test.
This is how I distinguish dreaming and waking. When I am awake I can, in some degree, account for and study my dream. The dragon that pursued me last night can be fitted into my waking world. I know that there are such things as dreams: I know that I had eaten an indigestible dinner: I know that a man of my reading might be expected to dream of dragons. But while in the nightmare I could not have fitted in my waking experience.
The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world: the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific point of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself.
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.