Nor can belief touch, kindle, smite, reprieve His heart who has not heart to disbelieve.1
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.2
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.3
When primitive man gazed at the void of heaven, his eye discerned at most a few thousand stars-a serene and limited universe. But now, far beyond the range of feeble sight, out on the limitless curve of space and time, science has revealed a universe of unimaginable size and inconceivable violence. Billions upon billions of stars-like our sun-burn with the energy of the thermonuclear furnace. Many die in explosions that litter the reaches of space with gas and dust from which new stars and planets are born.
And from the vastness beyond the congregations of stars comes the murmur, in microwaves, of the most cataclysmic event of all-the big bang of creation.
When time began-perhaps as much as twenty billion years ago-all mass and energy were compressed almost to infinite density and heated to trillions of degrees. A cosmic explosion rent that featureless mass, creating a rapidly expanding fireball. It has been cooling and slowing ever since . . . .
But what came before the big bang, and how will it all end? Billions of years hence, will gravity overcome the expansion and pull all matter into its primordial state? And if the universe is closed, might another big bang follow, with another expansion, and so on to infinity? Or, as many astronomers now believe, will an ever expanding, or open universe end in a whimper, its galaxies scattered irretrievably, their star fires spent and cold? For now, the questions are the domain of the philosopher as well as the astronomer.4
KENNETH F. WEAVER
Although in times past, within societies predominantly Christian, rationality was not sovereign, it has become so now. A consequence is that, while in times past the existence of God and his interaction with the universe was more easily assumed, within the context of the present cultural milieu, the logical-empirical space left for God’s existence and activity has shrunk dramatically.
In recognition of this change in ethos, the purpose of this paper is not to prove that God exists, but rather to suggest that there may be logical room for God to exist.
The approach used depends upon the logical impossibility of infinite space and time and similarly, the logical impossibility of both the lack, and the presence, of a first cause. It is suggested that, as a consequence, two things are impossible on a rational basis: the existence of the universe and the existence of God.
It is posited that the constructs of rationality and irrationality are merely two tools, albeit necessary and useful, which a human being uses to think about, and act within, existence.
Subsidiary to the main thrust of this essay, extensions of the reasoning used explore the theological problems of both biblical hermeneutics and the empirical absence of God, as well as the problem of an omnipotent and good God allowing evil, the illogic of free will and predestination, and the seeming fact of unanswered prayer.
The occasion for this work is twofold. First, it stems from a long-standing interest in how faith in God through Christ interfaces with a secularized and empirical-scientific intellectual and cultural milieu.
Second, and more immediately, this effort is intended to shore up the philosophical basis for a Christian belief system in conjunction with an attempt to mobilize the church in the U.S. to help-in Jesus’ name-eliminate the annual 13 million preventable deaths of children under five years of age.
For the first time in history, the information and resources are available to end poverty-related deaths of children under five. Also, for the first time in history, the majority of people in a number of societies including those of North America, Eastern and Western Europe, the USSR, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have substantial discretionary funds above those needed for basic needs. As a consequence, church members in the U.S. have sufficient resources to make a major impact on global need.
A national plan is currently being tested in ten congregations from five denominations in two states. This plan is designed to help mobilize billions of dollars through Christian churches within the U.S. to assist-in Jesus’ name-with the effort to eliminate preventable poverty-related child deaths worldwide as well as address domestic need within the U.S.
Many of the areas of world poverty are also the same areas where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not been adequately shared. And as the World Council of Churches’ Commission of World Mission and Evangelism has written, the task of evangelism must continue until ” . . . there is in every human community, a cell of the kingdom, a church confessing Jesus Christ and in his name serving his people.”5
However the church in the U.S. will not be in a position to make a positive contribution to world need commensurate with its potential if its belief structure is being seriously eroded without relief.
The dynamic at work within the culture can be observed through comments in the March 27, 1989 issue of Newsweek.
On the one hand, “According to a recent Newsweek Poll, 94 percent of Americans believe that God exists and 77 percent believe in a heaven.”6
On the other hand, “Easter is the one Sunday in the year when Christians can anticipate a sermon about life after death. But out of principle, many Christian clergy are loath to mention heaven-or, for that matter, hell. For some pastors, it’s a question of rhetorical modesty: . . . preachers today are hesitant to describe places that no one has actually seen. For others it’s a matter of intellectual integrity.”
“While the pulpit may be full of agnostics, the pews are filled with believers.”7
According to Jacob Neusner, a Judaism scholar at Brown University, “The idea of life after death is clearly an embarrassment to modern thinking-most major philosophers have ridiculed it-but it is just as clearly the touchstone of all religion.”8
It is clear that the same logic that results in the idea of life after death being an embarrassment has difficulty with the historically Christian idea of the existence of God. ” . . . [T]he postmodern heavenly host in Donald Barthelme’s story ‘On Angels’ (1969) face a [tough] adaptation. Because-as that old pre-postmodernist Nietzsche told us-God is dead . . .”9 Nietzsche, along with Freud and Marx, was a member of an elite triumvirate whom the renowned Catholic priest, sociologist and novelist Andrew Greeley refers to as ” . . . the principal atheistic architects of the modern mind . . .”10
The present work is an attempt to take a fresh look at the legacy of eighteenth century rationalism. It is hoped that a revisit of philosophical presuppositions may provide a basis, on the one hand, for reforming the contemporary understanding of the existence of God and, on the other, reshaping the hermeneutical approach to Biblical studies, particularly as this latter is related to what might be termed the miraculous, primitive, or fantastic, depending on one’s view.
It is further hoped that the above changes may prove to be of assistance to the church in the U.S. as she considers the possibility of closing ranks-with full intellectual integrity-among seminary faculty, denominational officials, clergy and the laity and between intellectuals and the church-at-large, in order to get on with the business at hand in a world which sorely needs the good news of Jesus Christ in deed as well as word.
Historically, within societies which were at least nominally Christian, thoroughgoing rationality of a contemporary scientific-empirical sort was not as fully predominant as it has become now. A consequence is that-while in times past the existence of God, and God’s interaction with the universe, was more easily assumed-now-within the framework of great universities and research centers, the outstanding Western thinkers of more recent centuries, and the artistic, intellectual, political and general cultural milieu-the logical-empirical space left for God’s existence and activity has shrunk dramatically.
In recognition of this change in ethos, the purpose of this paper is not to attempt to prove that God exists, but rather to suggest that there may be logical room for God to exist.
For purposes of this discussion, the following definitions from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary will be used.
Rational is defined as: “1 b : relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason . . .”
Reason is defined as: “1 d : the thing that makes some fact intelligible: CAUSE <wanted to know the ~ for earthquakes> . . .”
Cause is defined as: “1 b : something that brings about an effect or a result.”
Irrational is defined as: “not rational: as b : not governed by or according to reason <~ fears>.”
Paradox is defined as: “2 a : a statement that is seemly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.”
God is defined as: “1 cap : the supreme or ultimate reality: as a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness whom men worship as creator and ruler of the universe.” Further, God is being considered as presented in the Christian Bible.
Universe is defined as: “1 : the whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated: COSMOS.”
The word irrational is used in this discourse to the exclusion of the word paradox. Paradox, through its sense of “yet is perhaps true” obfuscates the major line of reasoning being pursued.
The focus in what follows is the impossibility of the existence of the universe and/or God on any theoretically rational basis.
Based on humanity’s current understanding and the seemingly unique nature of the related problems of first cause and infinity for the human mind, use of the term paradoxical, rather than irrational, would beg the question at hand, since its use would serve to draw attention away from the facts that there is no known or imaginable cause for, or beginning or end of, infinite space or time, no known or imaginable first cause which itself was not caused, no known or imaginable cause for a hypothesized first cause, nor no known or imaginable cause for God. Logical possibility is being considered here, not a statement of apparent contradiction as the word paradox suggests. For this reason, the present approach shall be limited to the use of the word irrational rather than paradoxical.
Meta-universe and Known Universe
The term “known universe” will be used to refer to the observable, expanding 15-plus billion light-year speck containing the planet Earth. In addition, the term “meta-universe” is being coined and will be employed to refer to the space beyond the known universe bounding on infinity.
Irrationality of the Existence of the Meta-universe and the Known Universe
There is no rationally known or imaginable beginning of, or end of, infinite space or time, beyond which there is no space or time. On the other hand, there is no rationally known or imaginable space or time which exists without a beginning or end. Therefore, infinite space and time are not rational constructs.
There is no rationally known or imaginable first cause for the universe, with first cause referring to a cause which itself was not caused. At the same time, there is no rationally known or imaginable event which is itself not caused.
Based on these observations, as of this point in human history, it can be safely concluded that, at the deductive level, infinite space and time, and the existence of the meta-universe and its affiliate, the known universe, are not rationally possible.
Alternatively, the existence of the universe is rationally impossible.
So, the existence of the universe is impossible on a deductive rational basis.
Thus, the existence of the universe is irrational.
Irrationality of the Existence of God
There is no rationally known or imaginable first cause for God, with first cause referring to a cause which itself was not caused. At the same time, there is no rationally known or imaginable event which is itself not caused. Therefore, God is not a rational construct.
Based on this observation, as of this point in human history, it can be safely concluded that, at the deductive level, the existence of God is not rationally possible.
Alternatively, the existence of God is rationally impossible.
So, the existence of God is impossible on a deductive rational basis.
Thus, the existence of God is irrational.
Rationality and Empirical Evidence
The empirical or inductive evidence for the existence of the universe is so pervasive that only the most abstract theoretician would question its existence, even though on a deductive or theoretical level its existence is irrational and impossible.
On the other hand, empirical evidence for the existence of God available either directly or derivable from the human sensory apparatus is so sparse that the modern mind concludes it is irrational to think that God exists.
That is, based on the availability of empirical evidence, the universe is deemed to exist while God is not, although, on the abstract or deductive level, the existence of either is irrational.
Rationality and Irrationality: Two Phenomena
The heritage of eighteenth century rationalism in combination with the stunning advances made by empirical science have led to the cultural presumption that the world is rational. Everything is assumed to have a cause whether measurable or discernable at any given moment in time or not. Even the incomprehensible and senseless travesties that humans, as individuals and as countries, are wont to visit upon each other from time to time are studied by students of politics, sociology and psychology to determine what causes what and what prevents what.
The only evidence to the contrary regarding the pervasiveness of rationality, at least evidence not directly tied to questions of religion, is the problem of unthinkable infinite space and time and its close cousin, the problem of first cause. Yet these issues are so distant from everyday life, so irrelevant and unproductive in the life of commerce and politics, and so absolutely unyielding to rational thought that they play no major role in the intellectual life of Western culture.
Yet they are so massively, however much silently and in the background, a part of reality that they impel even the somewhat casual, yet thoughtful, observer toward the conclusion that there are two phenomena that must be accepted as part of reality as perceived by humans: the rational and the irrational.
The rational and the irrational can be conceived of as two concepts or tools useful for thinking about the existence in which humans find themselves. Admittedly, rationality is a tool which is highly productive and sufficient in almost all situations. However, rather than immersing oneself within the prevalent presumption of rationality, there may be some value in recognizing that irrationality, at the present time, seems to be a fair and useful construct for approaching the problem of first cause.
Rationality and Irrationality: A Bimodal or Two Tool Approach
It may be beneficial to approach reality with the assumption that there are at least two useful characteristics of a human approach to reality, namely, rationality and irrationality. This may be so even though one is highly acculturated to thinking only in terms of the rational and may find it difficult to distance oneself sufficiently to think of both rationality and irrationality as tools at one’s disposal.
This approach would assume that for most tasks, rationality is the normative, and highly effective, tool of choice. At the same time, it would be asserted that for some problems, irrationality is the order of the day and can be comfortably recognized and used. Whether the problems of first cause and infinite space are due to a lack of information or a sheer lack of the way our mental apparatus functions is somewhat irrelevant. The problems are so seemingly, intrinsically insoluble that little is lost by labeling them irrational rather than in faith, or by cultural habit, calling them rational or paradoxical.
A bimodal approach of the sort being considered, in recognition of the well-established, pragmatic value of the rational, would proceed with the presumption of rationality. That is, although the migratory behavior of birds, the aging process of humans and UFO sightings may not be fully understood at any given point in time, one might presume that there is a rational explanation that can be discerned over time.
Even in the case of an event labeled irrational, the presumption of rationality would serve to assist one in staying open to a rational explanation. In so doing, the presumption of rationality would help guard against intellectual and scientific hegemony or indifference in which something less than a most vigorous attempt is made to understand all aspects, large and small, near and far, of the meta-universe and the observable universe in which humanity finds itself.
Yet for that perhaps small but important class of events which do not show any hint of yielding to the rational process at the present time, integrity and the need for clear thinking call for a frank labeling of such events as irrational-even if such events as infinite space and first cause are background events which in no discernable fashion impinge upon humankind’s daily or millennial lives.
The Existence of God and the Existence of the Meta-Universe
A conclusion to be drawn from the above line of reasoning is that the widely accepted existence of the irrational meta-universe provides a precedent for the existence of another irrational event, namely, the existence of God. Admittedly the empirical evidence for the existence of God is a fragile thread, indeed, compared to the overwhelming, unquestioned empirical evidence found in the known universe for the existence of the universe including the meta-universe. And it is upon this fragile thread of empirical evidence, however slight, that rational human knowledge of the existence of God depends.
Surely, categorizing an event such as the existence of God as irrational, in and of itself, does not thereby prove its reality.
However, the fact that an event such as the existence of God is irrational does not in and of itself mean that it is unreal or unknowable in terms of sensory tools. This assertion is based on the argument that though the existence of the universe is irrational, that irrationality does not in and of itself mean that it is unreal or unknowable in terms of sensory tools. Sensory experience of the known universe provides sufficient evidence to persuade most of humanity that both the meta-universe and its seamless affiliate, the known universe, exist.
The Interface between Irrationalities and the Known Universe
It may be noted at this juncture that should infinite space, first cause and God actually exist and be truly irrationalities, then, it is theoretically possible that the interface between each of these irrational events and the rational events humans note on a daily and millennial basis, may hypothetically vary in terms of the rationality/irrationality category. That is, even though the known universe may exist as a speck within the irrationality of infinite space, the known universe may theoretically function in a fully rational fashion with no irrationalities due to its interface with the irrationality of the infinite space of the meta-universe, if the meta-universe exists. On the other hand, the nature of the interface between the irrationality of God, if God exists, and the known universe may be such that humanity perceives a number of irrationalities impinging upon its experience of the known universe.
Empirical Evidence and the Existence of God
If, for the sake of discussion, it is momentarily assumed that God exists and that the existence of God is irrational, it may be helpful to consider the concept of empirical evidence for the existence of God. As noted above, admittedly the empirical evidence for the existence of God is a fragile thread indeed, compared to the overwhelming, unquestioned inductive evidence found in the known universe for the existence of the universe. And it is upon this fragile thread of empirical evidence, however slight, that rational human knowledge of the existence of God depends.
It is interesting to note that if God existed, and if there were a relatively small corpus of events providing empirical evidence for the existence of God which had interfaced between God and the known universe, it is understandable that many humans would have differing degrees of ambiguity as to whether God exists. It would also be understandable that, by and large, those most schooled in formal rational conventions for empirical evidence might well have the most serious reservations.
Conversely, if God did not exist, and there were a significant collection of incomprehensible events, it is understandable that humans might anthropomorphize the Rorschach test of the unknown and assume that God created and interacted with the universe. It would also be understandable that, by and large, those least schooled in the formal rational rules of empirical evidence might well have the strongest convictions that God existed.
Further, it is understandable that, regardless of whether or not God exists, each of the two groups-those who have the most serious reservations, as well as those who have the strongest convictions, that God exists-would interpret the admittedly slight corpus of empirical evidence which may be brought to a review of the question of the existence of God, in ways consistent with their position.
Biblical Studies and Biblical Hermeneutics
A few years back the writers had an experience that shed light on the idea that individuals interpret available data in a fashion consistent with their perspective. The background occasion for a slight epiphany was the relatively frequent, periodic backup and overflow of raw sanitary sewage onto the floors of public housing owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and occupied-with the exception of the writers-by low-income African-Americans.
After ten years of earlier efforts had proved futile, a renewed effort to bring about change led to a protracted process which included a determination by an engineer hired by the City at the urging of tenants, that, indeed, the problem was not that articulated by a HUD official, namely, that “those people eat more chicken in a week than you do in a year and just stuff the grease down the drain,” but that, at the time of construction, the sanitary sewage lines had been laid too flat to drain the sewage properly in a normal fashion.
The engineer who had been hired to conduct the studies which discovered the true problem, also recommended an adequate remedy.
This engineer was subsequently hired by HUD.
The engineer then proposed an alternative, cheaper remedy. The second proposal placed the burden of a questionable solution on the tenants for the foreseeable future, since if the solution did not work as proposed, it was unlikely that the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to correct the work properly in the nine-building complex would ever again be available.
This experience, along with an accumulation of subliminally absorbed lessons learned from schooling, the news media, etc., impressed upon the writers that not only do attorneys advocate for their clients in court; but also, physicians, psychiatrists, and other expert witnesses may well advocate for a viewpoint in court; similarly, engineers and other professionals, not only those in the advertising industry, advocate not only in court and the world of commerce, but, indeed, even within the halls of academia.
It is not that the intellectual is hired by an institution to promote a particular position, but that academics often argue and advocate actively from within a relatively consistent position or body of knowledge to which, for whatever reasons, they have been attracted.
Thus, if a student of comparative religions or New Testament studies is working under the rationalist assumption that all events ultimately have a causal explanation, or are knowable only to the extent that they are rational, it will inform what will be seen or emphasized in the materials at hand.
But, if a student of comparative religions or New Testament studies is working under the assumption that, what has been heretofore termed an irrational God, exists and can handily interact with the known universe, this assumption likewise will inform what will be seen or emphasized in the materials at hand.
Both will be advocates of a given perspective.
A Modest Proposal
A basic truth-in-advertising approach might be useful, not unlike the kind of labeling found on packaged food items in the supermarket or on enclosures regarding side effects on medications.
Whether voluntarily stated in seminary brochures or texts as well as at the beginning of a given class each semester, whether routinely presented in accordance with an agreed upon formula negotiated by associations of seminaries, or whether best implemented in some other way is left to others to determine. The process itself of arriving at a methodology might be delightfully stimulating.
The basic idea is that university and seminary students would be well served if they were clearly and explicitly informed that much of the material being presented is marshaling evidence based on a given presupposition: either that the irrational-event-of-God can intervene in the known rational universe, or that the rational-event-of-no-God cannot intervene in the known rational universe.
A risk and a gain would obtain for each school.
The gain for the rational-event-of-no-God school would be that their students would have an even clearer and stronger foundational understanding of their position. The risk would be that their students, faced not only with the challenge of mastering the necessary detail, but also presented with the philosophical presuppositions involved in a more explicit fashion, might be more vulnerable to the enthusiastic though less sophisticated views of congregants who think there is afterlife and heaven.
The risk for the irrational-event-of-God school would be that the faith of their students would be threatened by being clearly, starkly and unambiguously faced with the possibility that there is no God. The gain would be that their surviving students might have less of a fortress mentality and could enter into, and engage more fully, the cultural milieu of the present time.
The Rational-Event-of-No-God School: A One Way Bridge of Love?
In a day of growing social unease and no respite from racial and ethnic slurs and worse, as catalogued by the daily news and such social commentaries as Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, it may be important to observe that the ecclesiastical culture is not yet without its own stereotypes.
Liberal, evangelical, mainline, fundamentalist are still not merely descriptors fraught with no potential for both lack of civility and abuse.
Thinking about this situation in light of the line of reasoning presented thus far leads to a series of questions.
Is it possible that reaching back into the nineteenth century, the traditional liberal has been more sensitively attuned than the fundamentalist to the genuine intellectual quest, with all its attendant costs, of the agnostic, atheist or even doubting church member? If this be possibly true, whether it would have been due to a more frequent exposure of the liberal to the modern mind in academic settings, to a general graciousness or sensitivity of personality, or to cultural background is not at issue here.
If the above is possibly true, is it also possible that out of an experience of faith there was a natural desire to reach out lovingly to understand the questions of the day? Is it further possible that-after both arriving at a more complete understanding of the intellectual queries emanating from eighteenth century rationalism, and observing the general success of the empirical scientific approach-those reaching out in love to others found no way back that met the demands of intellectual integrity felt by themselves and those to whom they ministered?
If there is any truth to this scenario, could the views presented in this paper assist the irrational-event-of-God school in approaching the rational-event-of-no-God school in a more gracious and loving fashion, with a new sense of appreciation for the past efforts exercised by those of the rational-event-of-no-God school to reach out lovingly to the strict empiricist and rigid rationalist? Could these views assist the irrational-event-of-God school to approach the rational-event-of-no-God school humbly in an attempt to learn from them how better to understand deeply and appreciate more fully the valid questions posed by intellectuals who are atheists, agnostics and doubting church members?
Put another way, is there possibly any truth to the New Testament assertion that, even though one part of the church may not think it needs other parts, each part of the church needs every other part?
Further, if there is any truth to this scenario, could the views presented in this paper assist the rational-event-of-no-God school to revisit the concept of an irrational-event-of-God in order to see if it is possible, with full intellectual integrity, to narrow the gap between universities, seminaries and clergy, on the one hand, and the aforementioned 77 percent of Americans who believe in a heaven, on the other?
Could the opportunity to assist in mobilizing the church in the U.S. to help-in Jesus’ name-eliminate the annual 13 million preventable deaths of children under five years of age provide, at least in small part, the requisite motivation for those blessed with a high degree of intelligence, sensitivity, and thorough academic training to review afresh-albeit with full academic freedom, without constraint of any sort, and from the vantage point of more than two centuries of intellectual history-the issues which have formed the modern mind, and perhaps to heal the breech between the two schools of thought which have divided the church and limited its effectiveness?
In anticipation of a cursory review of a few corollary matters, following is a brief statement of four of the salient points made thus far.
First, it has been observed that, within the framework of the secular, material realm, humanity is faced with the irrationality, and rational impossibility, of the universe-in the form of the problems of first cause and the related difficulty of infinite space.
Second, it has also been noted that if there is God, God also, by definition, is an irrationality-also due to the problems of first cause and the related difficulty of infinite time.
Third, it has been noted that the empirical, inductive evidence for the existence of the universe is massive, while that for the existence of God is ever so slight.
Fourth, it has been suggested that there is no a priori reason why two irrational events should each interface with, or interact with, the rational order of the known universe in exclusively either a rational manner or an irrational fashion.
The focus now turns to a consideration of how the interface between an irrational-event-of-God and the rational known universe might be perceived.
Following is a sampling of issues from within the theological area over which, often, schools of thought have developed through the centuries. It is suggested here that rather than one side or the other side being correct, the different positions may be each identifying one side or part of what is, in essence, an irrationality which has intruded into the human realm of the known universe normally characterized by rationality.
Free Will and Theistic Determinism
The Biblical material presents two mutually exclusive phenomena. First, God is in complete control and causes everything that happens according to predetermined plans; faith itself is a gift from God. Second, human beings are not only free to choose for or against God, but also their entreaties can be the occasion for God changing his mind; humans are responsible for their choices and the degree of faith they have.
One possibility for the inclusion of these mutually exclusive phenomena within the Biblical material is that God does not exist and the apparent illogic is a function of various human imaginings and articulations about God and God’s interaction with humans.
A second possibility is that God does exist but that, in connection with this issue, the Biblical material does not correctly reflect God’s interaction with humankind.
Third and fourth possibilities are that God does exist, the two phenomena being considered are not mutually exclusive, and either systematic theologians have adequately explained the relationship of these two phenomena and the explanation is thoroughly rational, or systematic theologians have not yet adequately explained the relationship of these two phenomena but the explanation is thoroughly rational.
A fifth possibility, which is suggested here, is that God does exist, that the existence of God is irrational and that God’s interaction with humans vis-à-vis this issue is best understood as the irrational intruding into the rational order of the known universe.
In this case, what can be termed “psychologic” might be the best way to approach this interface between irrationality and rationality for creatures limited to functioning within the realm of rationality. To the extent that humans can learn about God through the Biblical datum, it may be that two pieces of information are presented, each true in and of themselves, but mutually exclusive and thus irrational in conjunction with each other. However, in spite of that irrationality and in spite of the fact that they are each true in some absolute though wholly irrational sense, they may, in addition, have what can be thought of as a functional rationality.
That is, the Biblical passages in support of free will may serve the role of encouraging the reader when the reader is in need of taking responsibility. The Biblical passages in support of theistic determinism may serve the role of encouraging readers when the readers sense they have exhausted the resources and options available to themselves or when they are inclined toward an inappropriate sense of arrogance over their individual power and accomplishments.
Willingness to employ the functional rationality of psychologic within a system which may be inherently irrational at significant points, may well be the creative and obedient faith response of a creature who is limited to functioning on a rational level in what is essentially a bimodal system comprising the rational and irrational.
Good and Evil
Another such dyad of Biblical data is the existence of evil in a universe controlled by an omnipotent, omniscient God. This illogical situation would also be a prime candidate for an instance of the irrational intruding into the realm of the rational-if and only if God, as described in the Biblical material, exists.
In the New Testament, Jesus is quoted as saying, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”11 Or, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”12
Over 13 million children under five have died each year from preventable poverty-related causes over at least the past two decades. Over half the world’s population has not heard a presentation of the Christian Gospel.
Although not documented, it is likely that every Christian has asked the Father for many things in Jesus’ name and not observed that the thing requested has been done.
Again, one possibility for the inclusion of this promise attributed to Jesus within the Biblical material is that God does not exist and the apparent problem is merely an expression of wish fulfillment.
A second possibility is that God does exist but that, in connection with this issue, the Biblical material does not correctly reflect God’s interaction with humankind.
Third, it is possible that no one has prayed in Jesus’ name that the horrible tragedies of this world cease happening.
It is also possible that, in the context of other Scripture, no one has had sufficient faith as he or she has prayed in Jesus’ name that the horrible tragedies of this world cease happening.
Again, it is further possible that either theologians have adequately explained the relationship between God’s plans and Jesus’ promise regarding prayer and the explanation is thoroughly rational, or systematic theologians have not yet adequately explained the relationship between these two phenomena but the explanation is thoroughly rational.
It is possible, in line with the reasoning of the present paper, that the matter of unanswered prayer is yet another instance of the irrational intruding into the realm of the rational-of course, if and only if the above promise was made by Jesus and is true.
How God Interacts with the Known Universe
There is no rational, empirical laboratory evidence for God’s interaction with the known universe.
Therefore, if God exists and interacts with the known universe including the human brain, then at this point in time, such interaction might well be termed an instance of the irrational intruding into the realm of the rational.
The Dearth of Empirical Evidence for the Existence of God
If one looks at the Biblical data with a rational presupposition that the irrational God-event is not a valid construct, then the Biblical data provides no evidence for the existence of God. All instances which portray events contrary to how the known universe operates are suspect, and are necessarily interpreted in accordance with human imaginings, parallels in religious literature and presented in terms of how the known universe works.
If one views the Biblical data with the assumption that it may provide a record of humans encountering the irrational-event-of-God as this event is intruding into the realm of the rational, then one may or may not believe this thin strand of possible evidence.
However, even in the latter instance, one is left with the observation that it seems somewhat suspect to the modern mind that this fragile body of empirical evidence just happens to be available only from a more scientifically primitive time before there was a more highly developed sense of empirical evidence and before there were, among other things, tools of mass communication including video cameras which might have recorded more adequately this purported evidence.
Put another way, why is it that there seems to be no contemporary evidence of the irrational-event-of-God intruding into the realm of the rational, comparable with the relatively rich body of material circulating in the first century A.D. and before?
Again, viewed from a rational presupposition that the irrational God-event is not a valid construct, then there are reasonable explanations, readily at hand, for why the first century A.D. was a fertile period for the flowering of the recorded events.
Yet, even if the Biblical data is viewed with the assumption that it may provide a record of humans encountering the irrational-event-of-God as this event is intruding into the realm of the rational, this question regarding the paucity of contemporary evidence remains.
Working with the presumption of rationality suggested earlier, the following line of reasoning is offered, certainly not as direct evidence for the existence of God, nor as the definitive reason for the quietness of God in the event that God does exist, but merely as a speculative consideration of any benefits that might occur from the deafening silence of a God if God exists.
If the irrational-event-of-God had remained on earth in a form, for the most part rational and not wholly dissimilar to a form described by New Testament writers, then, if a goal of God had been, as far as possible, to develop human beings into creatures who richly took responsibility for their actions throughout the depth and breadth of their personality, it is reasonable that the continuing presence of God in a rational form would have short-circuited this process.
It has been suggested that the existence of the universe and the existence of God are each rationally impossible.
It has been posited that the constructs of rationality and irrationality are merely two tools, albeit necessary and useful, which a human being uses to think about, and act within, existence.
by John Ronsvalle and Sylvia Ronsvalle
The National Money for Missions Program
empty tomb, inc.
November 13, 1989
Minor revision 3/20/2002
The third section of the Trilogy is a Dialogue on Causation