The world of faith and the world of Christianity stand in need of new blood, of a new spirit, fit to address the concerns of its age and yet at the same time transcend its limitations. If the reality of the Supreme Being appears to contemporary man as a mere concept, an idea formulated among a myriad of all others; it is still nonetheless a perennial one that expresses in its breadth and in its depth, the mystery at the core of human existence. Existential questions are simply what they refer to, questions that appeal to the existence of man and are determinant in his approach toward reality.
The Human Spirit
According to the scientific account of creation and of the rational understanding of man, such questions no longer seem fit to be investigated and answered with the certainty and certitude vested upon them by human reason. In truth, they are not rational for the simple fact that they are not scientific, or perhaps, they are not knowable since they are not by their very nature, a part of empirical reality. Nevertheless, it is in the dimension of the human spirit, that the man of religion can overcome the limitations imposed upon the man of science, as the former reaches toward a human capacity that lies at the center of the very being of man.
Without a doubt, the object of the enterprise is not as one can visibly gather, to prove without any shadow of a doubt the existence of the mysterious entity, nor does it propose to defend its rational necessity as far as the value and dignity of the human being are concerned. Rather, the purpose of the endeavor is to achieve a true and rational exposition of its truth, of its beauty and of its regal dignity. The human spirit, lying at the center of the being of man, constitutes the soul of his body, the spirit of his matter. In short, it is incumbent upon the man of faith and of religion, to expose in an intelligible manner, the rational singularity of its importance.
The final aim is of course, to awake in the man of his time, a perennial feeling, which is enduring and eternal. It is only when this feeling, this yearning for the eternal is awakened, that the world of faith begins to take shape in man’s rational vision and starts to take hold of his innermost will, as he surrenders to a Realitygreater than he, higher than he can conceive with his mind, and deeper than he can grasp with his will. In this sense, it is before this realization that the world of faith finally appears in its truth, as a world standing as its own reason for being which proves in the end capable of overcoming the limitations imposed upon it by its own social and historical context.
The Mental Landscape
The mental landscape of faith, is fraught with stones and pebbles, which stand on the path of the man of religion. These obstacles, have been mentioned earlier. However, a greater understanding of their social and historic dimension is still lacking.
It is difficult to forget that the situation in which the individual living in the developed West finds himself in, is quite certainly more favorable to a life of religion as compared to many other parts of the world. Society plays an important part and a determinant role in the manner in which religion is perceived and how the attitude of man toward it is in actuality.
For that fact, man is a social animal, a social being, for whom the life of community constitutes an integral part of his identity. In this respect, the kinds of liberties that one enjoys in his respective time, are central in the practice and the acceptance of religion. The reasons for their acceptance can be as political as they are social; nevertheless, they are not to be occulted for their importance is crucial in the elaboration of a religious code of ethics.
In the developed nations of the world, the existence of the wall of separation is a well known reality, to which the average fellow has learned, through years of schooling and of education, to acclimate himself. Secularity, which in reality is a natural distinction between the secular and the sacred, the temporal and the eternal, has muted into a secularism, at once agnostic and at times militant, which in truth has operated a divorce between the sphere of the sacred and religious and the temporal plane of the secular, of the age. It is most fully a pervading spirit, an informing mind which gives to society a particular orientation. In post-modern times, it is behind the celebration of diverse multiculturalism, that this penetrating spirit finds its diffuse but real incarnation. In a society in which the representation of different sections of the human community is an explicit desire and a visible necessity, it appears that the place once held and upheld by faith is increasingly restrained.
In short, if the preceding elements constitute a bare framing of the mental landscape that characterizes the current debate, they at the least attempt to give a fair picture of the architecture of the modern and post-modern mind. In recent times, it appears that the world of human faith is living in a mutating atmosphere which at once suffocates it and continually extinguishes its flame. On the continent of North America, this condition is particularly noticeable as attempts to resurrect the reality of the supernatural, as a subject worthy of rational and of intellectual relevance finds its expression in the cause of the theory of Intelligent Design, an a priori scientific account of life and of the universe that sees behind the purposeful mechanism of nature, the action of an Intelligent Being, voire a Divine Cause. Now whether, this Intelligence as some argue, is the Abrahamic and Judeo-Christian God, or whether it simply refers to a Cosmic or Alien Being, is a matter of debate and varies depending on what perspective and proponent group one ascribes to.
The Tragic Flaw
According to the theory of Intelligent Design, the world shows the imprint of an Intelligent Being. The universe is purposeful, rational and irreducibly complex. Because of these main reasons, it requires, in order to understand its mechanism and truly accept the evidence to which its evolution points, the existence of an Intelligent or supernatural principle. It is safe to say that the Intelligent Design theory, has not been received by all with acceptance and understanding. In the eyes of the average fellow living in America, possessing a minimum of education and imbued with the rationalist mindset, the scientific attempt to reintroduce a notion once accepted as a matter of common sense, appears very much like a religiously inspired movement. For the man of science, the Intelligent Designmovement is certainly religiously motivated and represents an a priori scientific theory, which in reality stands as no scientific theory at all. In effect, the attempt to re-inject the notion of the supernatural into the intellectual debate seems to be refracted back at the man of religion, and at the scientific theory itself.
In reality, the attempt to resurrect the idea of God in the rational sphere of science, stands as a tragic admission of human science’s apparent superior wisdom. There is a tragic flaw in this situation, since it involves an implicit recognition of the fact that empirical science seems increasingly viewed as the only true and acceptable source of knowledge. Science, is the final authority on any subject whatever, whether it includes the world of man, the world of the universe, or the higher truth of the supernatural. Only through the scientific method is it possible to unquestioningly and certainly come to the knowledge of the world of the senses, and the world of higher truths to which faith belongs, such is the habitual pattern of thought of contemporary man. In this sense, the Intelligent Design theory by which it is admitted by necessity or perhaps, by way of reason, the existence of an Intelligence Cause in the chain of being, and in the mechanism behind the evolution of life and of the universe, for that fact; represents in an unorthodox manner, a capitulation of the world of faith to the greater wisdom of human science.
In this manner, the conclusion of the debate seems to favor by its very logic the cause of science itself. There cannot be a God, nor is it possible to know of His existence, in a metaphysical world view that does not admit of a supernatural cause in its explanation of the universe and of reality. In the end, the Intelligent Design attempt is itself self-refuting and dis-serving of itself; for that reason, it is almost destined to end in failure.
Nonetheless, there remains the conviction that proving and establishing the existence of the Intelligent Being, is itself a worthy endeavor capable of being realized. In this light, it is possible to establish new terms in the intellectual debate. Indeed, awareness of the intellectual and social barriers that stand in the way, is in the end, not sufficient. It is imperative to address the debate at the philosophical level and generate a deeper realization of the limitations that are imposed upon science by its own very method. In this sense, the apparent totalitarian claim on reality that empirical science holds in the common perception of the individual, can be held in check and seen in its true light. Science, for all its beneficence, for all the wonder it generates is not to be seen as the only source of knowledge by the very fact that the knowledge it supplies on reality is itself limited. In effect, the scientific account is not in itself complete. On the contrary, involved in the nature of its methodology is the recognition that it may not define the whole of reality nor impose a limitation upon it, for the very reason that its prism of knowledge and method of inquiry limit its rational vision as well as its philosophical conclusions. A more appreciative recognition of this philosophical reality is undoubtedly more favoring toward the cause of religion, and more accepting toward the reality of the supernatural.
The Terms of the Debate: Epilogue
But for the common man, the way of resolution stands at another branch point. For the man who lives in the atmosphere of post-modernity, it is certain that the testimony of faith is a logic that may be convincing enough. The historic and social elements of the debate are also to be accounted for in the renewed approach toward the cause of the supernatural. For the average fellow, his belief and confidence in human, and empirical science, for that fact, are justified for the reason that they have blessed his existence with the wonders of technology, with the facilities of increased transportation and the commodities of personal means of telecommunication. As one would believe, the world of faith has resulted in the very opposite. Faith, for the man steeped in post-modern thought, is the incarnation of the unprogressive forces present within humanity. Faith, is the last bastion of intolerance and the harbinger of division. Faith, is the representation in flesh and in blood, of truths that are of another age.
Therefore, if the religious man is to change his approach, it is toward the expression of a new universality, rooted in the message of Christianity and of its Church. Personal holiness and the testimony of moral life are realities which may not be dispensed with. Moreover, it is in the truth of lived and practiced religion, called culture, that faith finds its complete evangelizing power. In the final analysis, it is really in the truths of the faith, that the achievements of the humanized West can be understood in their true light, and extensive reality. The achievements of science, the innovations of human technology cannot be separated from the principles and impulses that inspired them. Most certainly, the current world as it stands, is in many respects, the by-product of the achievements of a Christian civilization which has received successive forms throughout history. Certainly, these truths are no longer admitted to in intellectual circles; however, a resurrection of their reality can certainly serve to instill in the debate over the Supreme Being’s existence, a dimension of universality it was hitherto lacking.