In response to my article, The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways, I got an email from a reader named Gilbert. My original reply to him was a bit short so I hope to expand on it more here. He makes three points in the letter but in the interest of brevity, I will only be dealing with one and hopefully can tackle the others on another day. Anyway, on to the letter:
Your article today caught my eye. I can understand what seems to be some frustration for the convenient response that doesn’t quite answer our deepest questions about the surrounding realities that bother us.
My own view is that I would need to accept the reality of a Supreme Being who has control over everything in order to approximate some sense in human existence. I share with you the “idea that God is good, just and compassionate.” This also makes me wonder what makes you think so. If God is the Supreme Being, it will be necessary for him to have other attributes beyond what you mentioned to be so. My limited mind tells me that God will have to be eternal; no beginning, no end. He will have to be perfect; incapable of improving or deteriorating. He will have to be all-knowing; in no way deficient in knowledge of every detail of the universe. He will have to be all-powerful; mightier than anything or anyone. And there would have to be other attributes of him that would be beyond my ability to grasp except if it is his purpose for me to understand. It would be difficult for anyone to conceive of a God who had anything less than these attributes. Otherwise, this “god” would not be God at all.
The argument that it is necessary for God to exist to make sense of life is a view I held before as well. However, we have to accept one brutal fact and that is reality does not necessarily conform to our desires, no matter how strong the desire. Positing God’s existence to satisfy one’s longing for meaning does not make it a reality. It may offer some temporary relief and may even appear to answer some problems, but in the end, it is reality that determines what is and is not.
Let me cite a couple of examples from science. When scientists first studied waves and wave motion, they thought that waves needed to have a medium in order to propagate. For example, water waves travel through water. Hence, water is the medium. Sound waves can propagate via air, water, or even solids. But then they encountered electromagnetic waves (like radio waves or light waves) which can travel through space, they were faced with a problem. Waves needed a medium in order to travel — that was the general principle, yet space is a vacuum and there is no medium to speak of, so how come waves can travel through space?
In order to make sense of this, physicists posited that there is necessarily a substance called “aether” which permeates through space and allows electromagnetic waves to travel through a vacuum. This seemed to solve a lot of problems and it seemed to make everything make sense, until an experiment by William Michaelson and Albert Morley provided conclusive proof that there was no such thing as aether.
So scientists who could previously not accept the possibility of waves traveling without a medium were now faced to confront that brutal fact. That was the reality. They could not make it otherwise no matter how much they desired it to be so, or no matter how much it went against their current convictions.
As a more recent example, consider the Higgs Boson or Higgs particle. Since 1964, it had been posited to exist, again to explain certain phenomena in the world of quantum physics. Its existence therefore was only hypothetical until it was proven to be observably real in the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, Switzerland. So now we can say with better confidence that the Higgs particle does exist.
In the same vein, one could argue all one wants that God’s existence gives me meaning and purpose but until we have conclusive proof and evidence that it is so, it is merely wishful thinking.
Personally, I lean more towards the idea that we create our own meaning, a subject I explored in an earlier article, Death And The Meaning Of Life. Whether or not there is an absolute meaning is something I do not know. Yet I do not let this lack of knowledge stall my life or let me live wantonly. I like this creed based on Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations 2:11:
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but you will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.