I had been blogging three days when I posted this story. At the time I had four readers––I think––or it may have been just me times four since I didn’t have a handle on Google analytics at the time. However, It remains one of my favorites so I thought I’d re-post it.
I read the news––and invariably, I think about God. This predilection, not practiced for most of my adult life, now gives me great comfort. And compels me to tell a story.
Once upon a time…
I was in New York City on business visiting some bigwigs––a great address on Park Avenue for those that care. The meeting was to be an important one. As I entered the sleek colorful elevator on the ground floor, there’s another man, smartly dressed, already inside. As we start our upward journey, the perfunctory nods out-of-the-way, we’re jarred by a sudden lurch, and we stop.
“When these things happen, I go into a Zen state,” he says.
“Really. I try to solve for the rate of acceleration of a falling object.”
“You’re a mathematician?” he politely asks.
“No. Just a smart-ass. And you?”
“I’m a professor of theology.”
“That’s impressive. Well now, since we may have a few moments, can I impose on you? I’d like to hear your proof on the existence of God,” I said.
“Ah, staring at death in a box on a wire. I can do one better. I can prove that He doesn’t exist.”
He teaches theology? Most likely another Marxist secularist with tenure. Or I could be wrong.
He starts. “Let’s imagine you spend your entire life on a secluded island. During this time, you never meet another human being. Books, CD’s, DVD’s, TVs, tapes, cellular phones, satellite feeds, Internet and Wi-Fi are nonexistent in your world.”
“How did I get there? What about parents?” Details I wanted answered.
“Fair enough. Your parents live in Bakersfield, California, and one night they do what parents do. Mom is now pregnant and then your Dad suddenly dies, of all things. Your Mom goes it alone. Shortly afterwards, pregnant Mom takes a trip to the Caribbean, all expenses paid, because she won some publisher’s clearinghouse contest. Waking up hung-over after celebrating her first night away from Bakersfield, please forgive her lapse in judgment, she decides to explore the remote regions of an archipelago, is dinghy wrecked and finds herself stranded on a deserted island. No way out.”
“You teach this stuff?” I ask incredulously.
“My classes have waiting lists. So. Your mother’s quite resourceful. Food, shelter and water are not a problem. Time proceeds as it does, and she delivers you beneath her favorite coconut tree. Key point, she’s a deaf-mute, so Mom won’t be talkative or much of a teacher about life’s bigger issues. She nurtures you until you can finally take care of yourself, although you’re still quite young. Then, Mom dies. The irony.”
I’m somewhat curious about where this is going.
He continues. “You’re now alone without any outside influences of any kind. You grow older. You survive. A little lonely now and then, but you do splendidly.”
“I’m healthy, right? And tanned, no doubt.”
“A regular Adonis. One glorious fall morning, you awaken to the aquamarine, tropical coolness of Nature’s breath. Not particularly hungry after gorging on your typical Tuesday menu of blueberries and coconut milk, you decide to sit on the beach, gaze out on the vastness and think. ‘Oh God, what have I done wrong? Why has life turned out this way? Why am I being punished to a life of solitude? Have I been less than moral? Have I done bad things? Have I not been your good servant? Have I talked trash about Jesus? What do I have to do to get into heaven?’”
“Reasonable questions,” I inject.
“So you think? Now we get to the good stuff, because there are a few things wrong and nothing right with this beach scenario. First, sitting there, you can’t articulate words because you’ve never been taught a language. Second, your questions belong in the intellectual domain and you’ve never been to that territory. Third, knowledge is an essential element when exploring the heterogeneity of thought, and you know nothing more than survival basics. To be blunt, you know squat. My point is you won’t be engaging, and never will, in far-reaching philosophical monologues about God or death or pattern baldness even.”
“So you’re saying that given the circumstances of my secluded island life, I could never possibly know about God.”
“In my scenario, correct.”
“You’ve only proven I don’t know about God. He may still exist,” I said.
“Then what a spiteful being He must be. Hiding Himself from you. If man’s relationship with God is the pivotal reason for our existence, He would do everything in His unlimited power to introduce Himself. But He doesn’t. Does spite define love, God’s alter ego? Of course not. Ergo, no God.”
Another lurch, and we once again begin to move up. At the twentieth floor, my floor, the elevator opens and I step out. I turn, put my hand on the polished aluminum doors to prevent them from closing, and look at a man who is pleased with his denial of God. I offer wisdom I was taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“Since Christ died for all and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of His Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved.”
The professor starts to speak but hesitates. “I need to think about that. Perhaps I’ll see you on the way down.”
“If down is hell, I’ll pass.”
Left to their own finite abilities, people will sometimes deny God, at least their understanding of God, without ever knowing the truth about the authentic God. Because if they were open to that truth, with His grace, an entirely different light would illuminate the fallacy of their thinking. As to what might prevent this openness, I will soon blog about humility.