In his late seventies, Antony Flew, one of the twentieth century’s most famous philosophers, stunned the philosophical world by announcing that he had begun to believe in God. If you are not into philosophy, you may not realize what a big deal this was. It would be like Rush Limbaugh suddenly declaring that he is a Democrat. Flew said he just didn’t see any other compelling explanation for the complexities of design in creation. For years he had tried to make peace with it, but it just couldn’t be that nothing times nobody equaled everything. It couldn’t be that the wonderful, beautiful complexity and intelligence of life emerged from a dead chaos. There had to be, as scientist Thomas Edison had previously concluded, “a captain on the bridge.”
For others, the bleakness of death prompts them to consider the possibility of something beyond the grave. Shortly before he died, Steve Jobs, the founding CEO of Apple, told an interviewer that he sometimes believed in God and sometimes didn’t. But after he was diagnosed with cancer, he found himself wanting to believe. It can’t be that when we die it all just fades to black. All the wisdom we’ve accumulated as a human race, all our accomplishments, somehow must live on. In fact, he explained, that’s why he never liked to put on/off switches on Apple devices. He didn’t like the idea of being able just to flip a switch and turn something off.2
In the same way, the experience of love and beauty are invitations to turn aside and listen. C. S. Lewis said that through beauty he experienced a yearning that compelled him to earnestly search for its source, as if he were feeling a ray of sunshine warm his face, knowing there must be some sun from which it emanates. He concluded,
A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, . . . well, earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
I find that much more compelling than the ways people like atheist Richard Dawkins account for beauty: when you look at a certain scenery, you think it’s beautiful because your ancestors believed that there was food out there, and that particular neurological feature helped them survive and has now come down to you.4
Really? Do you find the stars and sunsets beautiful because subconsciously they remind you of Twinkies? Is your love toward your spouse, kids, or parents merely a conditioned response that enables you to propagate your DNA into society faster than your neighbors? Try putting that on a Valentine’s Day card: “On this very special day, my genes are releasing chemical compounds into my bloodstream because they have been cultivated through centuries of evolution to see you as particularly useful for the propagation of my DNA into the next generation.” If you truly believe that, I’m impressed with your intellectual consistency. But I’d advise you to downplay that perspective on Valentine’s Day.
Greear, J. D., and David Jeremiah. 2018. Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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