Is There a God?

Is There a God?

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
Nov. 28 1996 3:30 AM

Is There a God?

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Steve,

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       There you go again.
       You insist that it is "illogical" and "silly" to believe in God, because there is no empirical proof of him. In fact, it is the other way round. If God exists, he would be, by definition, beyond our comprehension. He is, after all, by definition, the ultimate answer to the meaning of life, the source of all knowledge and power, the Being beyond all being. And yet you insist that unless he is easily within our comprehension, he cannot exist. You are treating God as if he were an experiment in fourth-grade physics. It's your own position that is illogical and silly.
       You also say that if God is love, his refusal to reveal himself completely is a bizarre act of withholding. Again, your argument makes no sense--indeed, it resonates with the crazed logic of the Grand Inquisitor. Love, of course, cannot simply be imposed or commanded. It must be reciprocal and entered into out of free will to be truly love. So if God's existence was "concrete and undeniable," a radical choice by human beings to love God would be impossible; such love would, indeed, be involuntary and so would not be love at all. God, as Pascal noted, is "un dieu cache," precisely to suggest to human beings that we will only know God once we have known love. And we will only know love if we choose love. Indeed, that decision is the basis of our salvation.
       You are insightful on one point, which is that, ultimately, God will surely reveal himself to us in a concrete and undeniable way. My only advice to you on this score is: Be patient. Life on earth is relatively short, and it's not too long to wait. My only hope is that, by that point, he will not come as some ghastly and incomprehensible surprise. One thing is certain: He will not be proven at that moment by the logic of 19th-century empiricism.

Yours,
Andrew

Steve Chapman is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and Andrew Sullivan is former editor of the New Republic.