Dec 26, 2010

Imagining God and Christopher Hitchens

Somehow I can't bring myself to believe my dog imagines me on all fours running for the food bowl at 5:00 pm every day or tearing out the patio door to chase a squirrel. However, I am delighted by the thought of my Pembroke Welsh corgi reclining in a tufted leather chair dressed in a paisley smoking jacket, reading glasses poised jauntily at the end of his long nose, with a pipe in one paw and a copy of G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy in the other. Christopher Hitchens prefers to believe that this human-animal distinction – this ability to imagine – is an accident of mutation over eons of evolution. What, exactly, is adaptive about my Alistair Cooke corgi fantasy, I can't, well... imagine.

I believe this distinction is explained by our Creator God who imagined and spoke us into being. We, not other animals, are made in God's image and likeness and therefore, we have this ability to imagine and, as such, are often capable of reflecting God's creative enterprise. Thus, an Alistair Cooke corgi nearly out of nothing.

I love Christopher Hitchens and I'm not just saying that to establish my Christian bona fides. I really do. What I see in him is a righteous indignation about the suffering of innocents. I deeply admire his commitment and passion to his cause. He's willing to get his nose bloodied over it and even put his own life in danger. I find this very attractive and heroic. It doesn't hurt that Hitchens has one of the sharpest minds of our era and is a master of the English language too.

Where Hitchens fails, however, is pride (it's always the pride, isn't it?) in his ability to reason. He cannot imagine how a good God could allow such abject misery and suffering in the world. And therefore, he rejects the very notion of God.

The Christian response to the paradox of a God who desires mercy and yet allows evil into the world is often answered by “evil is allowed to enter to reveal the glory of God.” This isn't the most intellectually satisfying response, is it? The best I can do is the old Jewish saying, “if I understood God, I would be him.” Both are inadequate to a man who rests all his understanding of the world on evolution and reason.

I like to imagine an omnipotent corporeal God with a restraining hand on Christopher Hitchens' forehead while the lesser, still beloved and magnificent creation, Hitchens, flails away with all the indignation he feels at injustice in the world, trying to land one good blow to make his point. If I can feel this way about a man I've never met and with whom I have profound philosophical disagreements, imagine how much more the Father, who sent his only Son to die for us all, must love and cherish such a man.

And so, I pray, Lord, if it be your will, please save Hitchens from his pride and his sickness. After this lifelong struggle, let his hand come to rest on Yours so that he may know Your Presence and make him an example, like St. Paul, of the good that is possible when we imagine You.


Unknown said...

You're an imbecile.

The Western Chauvinist said...

Stereotypical lefty response. Those with whom you disagree are either stupid or evil. Let's see, I care for Hitchens, therefore, can't use evil... oh, imbecile. Check.

Noticed you don't share your profile, foxxy. You're a coward.

Anonymous said...

I must ask: why do you think your dog is utterly incapable of imagining?

I mean, clearly the human ability to imagine is more advanced than that of dogs, but that doesn't seem to contradict the theory of evolution in any way.

Also, while the specific fantasy you describe in this post may not be "adaptive", it is indicative of an ability to imagine all manner of things that likely would be adaptive.

The Western Chauvinist said...

Well, Mysterious, you pose a fair challenge. I don't think I was making an argument against evolution, per se. My belief is, while Darwin had some previously un-described insights and some tautologies (survival of the fittest... Duh!), reason and materialism alone do not explain the universe or our place in it. I believe some things just transcend evolution. Do you believe everything will eventually be explained by it?

You have a point about possibly underestimating my dog's imagination. However, your question goes against your materialism. Where's the evidence?

If I suggested that human imagination isn't adaptive, it was poor communication on my part. Standard disclaimer: "It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." - Karl Popper

Rather, I think I was trying to get at how transcendent human imagination is. Take music, for example. Do you believe the evolution from bacterium to Bach was purely an accident? This is where you and Hitchens become Darwinian fundamentalists.

Anonymous said...

Good point, I have no evidence.

As for the question "will everything be explained by evolution", I answer that I think that all life on Earth is explained by it. I am not at all sure the workings of the entire universe can be explained by it, however.

I believe--and note I say "believe", for I admit I'm not certain--that the human ability to create and appreciate music does in fact serve some as-yet unknown evolutionary purpose. Not accidental, but not necessarily divine, either.

The Western Chauvinist said...

Nothing transcendent. Can't say I care to live my life believing that. But, I do admire your intellectual honesty. I've enjoyed the civil exchange. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I really like your blog.