The older I get — I'm 71 — the more ignorant I become, apparently. I do not understand much anymore, but I, like scientist Richard Dawkins, am convinced that some things are true and even magical: "But truth has a magic of its own."
Dawkins also seems to believe in courage and proper behavior over cowardly and improper behavior, the latter clearly directed at anyone who believes in supernatural explanations and reality.
As I was reading Dawkins' essay for the second time, it occurred to me that admitting to a belief in supernatural reality in this decidedly secular age might be more courageous than simply going along with the current secular view, especially if there is good evidence for belief in the supernatural.
Let's be clear: Christian faith in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus the Christ requires faith in supernatural reality and explanations. Regarding these propositions: from the outside, one could almost say with Dawkins, "it's a puzzle, it's strange, it's a challenge we should rise to."
If the propositions are true, after all, they make all the difference in the world regarding how we think about reality. Furthermore, how does one know that there is or isn't such a thing as Christian faith unless one ardently pursues the truth of it?
"If an event is reported," he said. Like the Resurrection, presumably?
The problem here is that Dawkins has turned scientific explanation into an absolute, which is itself a "shortcoming in present-day science" for those who will accept only scientific reasoning, regardless of the matter under investigation.
False absolutes are idols, as everyone knows. If Dawkins believes in courage, truth, honesty and integrity, intangible human values, then why not faith (as a possibility, at least) which is also an intangible human value?
"Everyone likes a good story," Dawkins says, dismissing stories as if they have nothing to do with truth. Good stories, however, can have everything to do with truth, even when they are not empirically verifiable. Here, for example, is a story that is true.
Once I was like Dawkins. I thought the Christian story (Nicene Creed version) was false; I saw no way to verify it.
Then I met a teacher in graduate school who opened up for me the meaning of art (literature, primarily, but music, painting, dance, etc.) and showed me a truth and depth that I had never suspected.
Fortunately, I was just clever enough to see that if great literature has truth, depth and mystery, then certainly real life (real being) might, as well. After all, art is, thanks to Aristotle, an imitation of life.
I did the reasonable thing; I rose to the challenge; I pursued the meaning of faith as the real source of ontological truth, even though I knew that faith was not empirically verifiable. Faith, I understood, was a gift. Only God makes Christians (if, of course, God exists). The only way to find out, I concluded, was to ask. After the pattern in the New Testament, and in graduate school, I prayed at my kitchen table: "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief."
Suddenly, I truly saw what I was saying: "I believe." And I did. The knowledge was there inside me; I believed (truly understood) that the Christian story was true; Jesus was the incarnate son of God; he is Lord. I was astonished and ecstatic. I was 24.
Today, the knowledge that the Christian story is real and true is the most real thing about me. Perhaps I have fooled myself but, from the interior, it does not look or feel that way. That knowledge of truth was a gift.
As Jonathan Edwards says in his sermon "The Divine and Supernatural Light," knowledge imparted by the Holy Spirit (i.e. God) has a qualitative difference from knowledge gleaned otherwise, what he calls "flesh and blood" knowledge. We could also truthfully call "flesh and blood" knowledge "scientific knowledge," meaning no disrespect.
I know one final thing. No one could ever have argued or reasoned me into the kingdom of God; many had tried. Reason, I know, is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Only grace suffices. That is, only God (the Holy Spirit) makes Christians able to affirm that Jesus is indeed Lord.