Tolerance has come to mean that no one is right and no one is wrong and, indeed, the very act of stating that someone else’s views are immoral or incorrect is now taken to be intolerant (of course, from this same point of view, it is all right to be intolerant of those who hold to objectively true moral or religious positions). Once the existence of knowable truth in religion and ethics is denied, authority (the right to be believed and obeyed) gives way to power (the ability to force compliance), reason gives way to rhetoric, the speech writer is replaced by the makeup man, and spirited but civil debate in the culture wars is replaced by politically correct special-interest groups who have nothing left but political coercion to enforce their views on others.
When injustice or tragedy comes our way, a common response is to get angry and exclaim, “why me?” or “this is not fair!” or “this shouldn’t be happening to me!” Some shake their fist at God.
Why do we react this way? Why are we troubled by injustice? Why do we find tragedy and suffering so intolerable? Who told us things were not meant to like this?
Human beings resist the idea of accepting pain as inevitable. We cannot bring ourselves to consider tragedy as normal and to live with it as we do with the changing of seasons or varying weather patterns. Suffering regularly provokes anger and disappointment.
Somehow we instinctively know there is something wrong with this picture. Things shouldn’t be this way. This idea seems to be written deep inside of us. Injustice and suffering were simply not meant to be.
Tragedy would not seem tragic to us unless somehow we knew that life was supposed to be different. Injustice would not exist unless there was some kind of unspoken universal law that everyone should adhere to.
After all, we cannot talk about “crooked” if we do not have some idea of “straight.” We cannot be homesick if we have no home. We cannot be disappointed or frustrated unless we are convinced something better should be taking place.
If there is a God who wrote his moral law in our hearts, and who created us to live in a perfect world that was somehow ruined in a tragic way, then our reactions make a lot of sense.
But if this material world is all humans have ever known, if this is “normal” and it has always been this way, then anger makes no sense at all. It’s like blowing our cool because autumn leaves turned color, or because the temperature dropped.
If an atheist acted according to his naturalistic worldview, he would see everything that goes on in this world as normal. He would not be getting angry at tragedy and injustice.
But he does.
It appears his heart knows something that his head doesn’t.
I wonder if this very hunger we have to be loved is a sign of another kind: not of God’s transcendence, but of His immanence, His being with us. I wonder if our lovesickness is, in fact, God’s image, broken, gaunt but still potent, within us. It is the footfall or thumbprint of Another, evidence of Things Unseen, rumors of a Visitor in the camp.
Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, your are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.
Unless a thing is dignified, it cannot be undignified. Why is it funny that a man should sit down suddenly in the street? There is only one possible or intelligent reason: that man is the image of God. It is not funny that anything else should fall down; only that a man should fall down. No one sees anything funny in a tree falling down. No one sees a delicate absurdity in a stone falling down. No man stops in the road and roars with laughter at the sight of the snow coming down. The fall of thunderbolts is treated with some gravity. The fall of roofs and high buildings is taken seriously. It is only when a man tumbles down that we laugh. Why do we laugh? Because it is a grave religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.” Unless a thing is dignified, it cannot be undignified. Why is it funny that a man should sit down suddenly in the street? There is only one possible or intelligent reason: that man is the image of God. It is not funny that anything else should fall down; only that a man should fall down. No one sees anything funny in a tree falling down. No one sees a delicate absurdity in a stone falling down. No man stops in the road and roars with laughter at the sight of the snow coming down. The fall of thunderbolts is treated with some gravity. The fall of roofs and high buildings is taken seriously. It is only when a man tumbles down that we laugh. Why do we laugh? Because it is a grave religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
Sometimes people in the faith community are accused of attacking science. To do so would be the height of foolishness. No person of reasonable intelligence would question the value of science. Problems arise, however, when science overreaches itself. What should be requested is for science to remain scientific.
Would it not go against all logic to ask a plumber to check our cholesterol level, or to request that the gardener tune the piano? These people are skilled in a particular field, and they would do well to operate within that field. Likewise, science functions best when it stays within its prescribed domain. Science is equipped to analyze natural phenomenon but is not in a position to address any others, or to pontificate that other causes could not possibly exist.
Science is capable of telling us how things can be done, but it cannot tell us what ought to be done. To expect science to answer philosophical questions is to go to the wrong place for answers. To mix science with philosophy is to confuse them both.
“It is our mistake to ask science to do something it can’t,” admitted Iain McGilchrist. “It’s like expecting your iPod to tell you whether you are in love.”
Christianity is not at odds with science. It has trouble with science that has become religious and has ceased to be aware of its limitations. Science answers a lot of questions, but to expect it to answer them all is not only an impossibility, it is also an absurdity.
I demand from my friend trust in my good faith which is certain without demonstrative proof. It wouldn’t be confidence at all if he waited for rigorous proof. Hang it all, the very fairy-tales embody the truth. Othello believed in Desdemona’s innocence when it was proved: but that was too late. Lear believed in Cordelia’s love when it was proved: but that was too late. ‘His praise is lost who stays till all commend.’ The magnanimity, the generosity which will trust on a reasonable probability, is required of us. But supposing one believed and was wrong after all? Why, then you would have paid the universe a compliment it doesn’t deserve. Your error would even so be more interesting and important than the reality. And yet how could that be? How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself?”