The Open Mindedness Required to Believe in God

Some atheists and agnostics today ask why do believers continue to persist in believing in God, or even introduce God into discussions about the universe when the advances of science have time and time again managed to explain the universe in natural terms without having to introduce God into the picture/equation?  

One reason is that mystery still exists.   There are still a countless number of things that we do not understand about our world, our universe, our selves – on the cosmic scale and on the micro scale.  Even when science can offer explanations of how things work, there remains the question of why?  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Why are we aware of our existence?  Why do things happen in the natural world that defy human logic? 

“Kamerlingh Omnes discovered the totally unsuspected property of superconductivity in 1911.  More than fifty years elapsed before it was explained.  It could not have been understood in 1911, since it is an intrinsically quantum mechanical phenomenon and modern quantum theory was then unknown.  It would have been foolish to have taken its mysterious character as a reason for denying its existence.”    (John Polkinghorne,  THE FAITH OF A PHYSICIST)

The fact that there is mystery in the universe prompts the believer to use his or her creativity and aspirations to seek to understand the universe beyond the limits of science.  Scientific inquiry puts over us a ceiling and says we cannot understand anything beyond the empirical universe.  It is a ceiling that involves space, time, temperature, velocity, beyond which science cannot see.   Believers are not so limited because above that ceiling, the limits of scientific inquiry, and beyond space and time, we think there is more to the universe than can meet the eye.  We believe human aspiration is not leading  us to nothing but to something greater than ourselves and the empirical universe.

And just because our experience of the Divine leaves us with the sense of God’s mysteriousness, we do think it foolish to therefore deny the existence of a Creator.   Humanity has grown through history an ever increased capacity for abstract thinking.   This is obvious in the realm of algebra but also in physics.  Our worldview has changed and we have realized that things we thought were absolute truths which could not be transcended, have in fact been proven limited by further reflection and discovery.  Algebraic equations which at one time humans were sure could not be resolved, have in fact been resolved by the increased capacity for abstract thinking that has emerged in history.   The Newtonian science which allowed us to accomplish many great things has been shown to be limited and has been eclipsed by quantum mechanics.   And so, the believer, seeing this truth about human creativity and the growing capacity for abstract thinking, can imagine that even beyond our most sophisticated understanding, there is a logic in the universe which we have yet to grasp, and a Logician who said, “Let there be light” and what resulted was our ability to think beyond the limits of space and time. 

To be a believer in God requires one to be a lot more creative and open minded than being an atheist.  It requires embracing human aspiration and a level of abstract thinking which is not limited by the current theories of science.  Like Omnes, we see and experience that which humanity is not yet capable of comprehending.

2 thoughts on “The Open Mindedness Required to Believe in God

  1. Let me get this straight,
    you’re saying that because in the past we didn’t have explanations for everything, and later on, we had more explanations, but still not had explanations for everything, then atheists have less creativity?

    Let me ask you this:
    how creative can you get when you assume that “god did it” is the explanation for everything?

  2. Fr. Ted

    No, what I am saying is that science by definition is limited to explanations which are bounded by space and time. Believers are not. To be a believer means to think outside of the box of space and time – it requires one to accept that there may be both a logic and a logician which are not bound by the limits of empirical science. This requires greater creativity or perhaps a different creativity than is required of scientists who must limit their thinking to the ceiling and boundaries created by space and time.
    “God did it” may in fact satisfy some believers (as in the bumper sticker logic of “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”) But the imaginative believer does not find that any more satisfying than the person who would say, “Nature did it” or “that’s science.” The believer who engages the world and scientific theory has to deal with the same truth of the universe that science deals with, but then allows for the fact that some of what we experience may be best understood by allowing for the possibility of other kinds of logic being at work in the universe than ones we fully understand. This is certainly similar to the experience in quantum physics. Additionally some of what we eperience as mystery is not a ceiling that limits our inquiry, but rather suggestive that their may be doors in the universe which will open our minds to aspects of the universe which are not following a logic we understand and are not limited by the empirical universe. Some such things: the nanosecond before the nanosecond after the Big Bang, dark energy, the boundary of the expanding universe. Some of these things science may say is beyond our competency to know. Believers can accept that there is a bigger frame of reference which is not limited by our empirical knowledge. That is the realm of God.

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