Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Born to blush unseen

That brings us to the real crux of the problem, in my opinion. The implicit assumption seems to be that God wouldn't create such extravagant waste. God is like a super-efficient engineer who wouldn't engage in such waste.

Mike, I love you engineers because you respond so well to my approach to apologetics! But you've got to be really careful about creating God in your own image and projecting your values onto Him. As I said to Quentin Smith, who originally raised the efficiency objection, God may be more like an artist than like an engineer, someone who delights in the extravagance of His creation, in far-flung, undiscovered galaxies, in flowers that bloom unseen on a remote mountain hillside, in beautiful shells lying in the ocean's unexplored depths. I see no reason at all to think that God should be like the engineer rather than the artist. Efficiency, as I said, is a value only to someone with limited resources or limited time, or both. But God has unlimited time and resources, so why shouldn't He be extravagant? Granted that your engineer would marshal his time and resources carefully; but suppose God isn't (just) an engineer?


That’s an interesting argument, which is worth exploring a bit more.

i) Craig is challenging the facile appeal to Occam’s Razor–so dear to atheists. And it’s true, as he says, that there’s no antecedent reason why God would necessarily put a premium on efficiency.

After all, even human beings value many this more highly than mere efficiency. It’s not as if art and music constitute an efficient use of one’s time and money. There’s nothing all that efficient about gourmet food.

A flower garden is not a terribly efficient use of one’s time. We don’t own dogs and cats because that’s an efficient use of our resources. Poetry is a rather inefficient means of communication.

A sports car may be an efficient sports car, but it’s not a very efficient mode of transportation. That’s not the point.

We do lots of “wasteful” things because we like to. That’s all.

ii) There’s a somewhat anthropomorphic way in which Craig describes God. Even if God delights in nature, God doesn’t have to make the natural world to delight in it. It would be more than sufficient for God to delight in his complete idea of the natural world. God doesn’t need real time and space to do so.

iii) One possibility which Craig overlooks is that God may create all these wonders for our benefit. That’s one way in which we experience his goodness, and be what we were made to be. The way to find yourself is to lose yourself–in God. In all he is and does.

Craig is partly alluding to some famous lines of poetry:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

And he’s updating, as well as augmenting, the poem just a bit with his reference to far-flung galaxies.

His assumption seems to be that because human beings are bound by space and time, there are many natural wonders and beauties which we miss. Which go unobserved.

Therefore, God must be the observer. It’s for his benefit, and his alone.

And God is, no doubt, the omniscient observer. Nothing escapes him.

It’s equally true that our locality and temporality severely limit what we can enjoy at any one time and place.

Reality has a nearly infinite variety and density of detail. There’s so much happening on any given day, in any given place.

Some artists, like Monet and Georgia O’Keefe, concentrate on exploring, celebrating, and commemorating the same small square of reality. Overturning every autumnal leaf which that tiny square of reality has to offer. And that’s just one lifetime.

Imagine if you could go back in time to the same day, returning to the very same day, day after day, to plumb the depths of just one day. Then repeat that process for other days, in the same place–or other places. A selective intensity of experience.

Philosophers debate whether immorality would be an interminable bore. Yet there’s so much to discover–here, there, and everywhere–past, present, and future. An inexhaustible diversity of experience.

And, of course, that’s the stuff of science fiction. Time travel. The exploration of space. But what is science fiction in the here-and-now may be reality in the hereafter.

We can imagine many things, yet our finite imagination is but a shadow of God’s infinite imagination.

Perhaps the flower which is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air in this life is waiting in the world to come. For the meek shall inherit the earth.

1 comment:

  1. I know this doesn't necessarily deal with this issue (ina way it does) but can you guys deal with this over at imonks (it's on worldviews and evolution). Thanks again