In Chapter 2, Williams argues that God's existence can be inferred from the two
unique faculties of the human mind - cognition and conscience - as well as Man's
ability to make and appreciate music.
Test me, O Lord, and try me,
Examine my heart and my mind.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
I am hopeful that the reader may regard my arguments so far as, in the main,
convincing. But even if they seem unconvincing, or at best inconclusive, I would
ask you to suspend any disbelief. Do not put the book aside at this early stage.
Instead, I would ask you to ponder - really ponder - the ramifications, for Man,
of there being a God who designed and created the physical Universe. If that
state of affairs is even a possibility in your mind, then questions of the
utmost serious should arise. For as Richard Dawkins rightly states in The God
[A] universe in which we are alone except for other slowly involved
intelligences is a very different universe from one with an original guiding
agent whose intelligent design is responsible for its very existence ...They are
close to being irreconcilably different.
One of the things that now strikes me most forcibly is this. If such a Designing
God exists - all-powerful, all-knowing - then there is nothing to be gained by
wishing away His existence, or to complain about it as somehow cramping your
style here on Earth. To do so amounts to an attempt to put off facing something
that you do not want to face. Almost always, like ignoring a bad toothache, or
an upcoming examination, such an approach is dangerous.
Equally pointless is to regard the apparent flaws of Creation - the prevalence
of suffering and evil, for instance - as somehow invalidating God's existence.
That is a natural human attitude even among believers (sometimes, still, it is
mine), but logically it is perverse. God, as your Creator, is an infinitely
greater being than you are. If and because such a God exists, and because the
Earth is as it is, you must try instead to understand why God made things as
they are and, even more importantly, what it is that God wants of you as an
individual. And, however difficult it may seem, to do it.
To use an imperfect analogy from childhood, if you are stuck with a teacher who
is especially strict, it does not really do you any good to whinge about his or
her methods or to wish for another teacher. If you want to help yourself, you
have to accept the fact that Mrs X is your teacher - whether you like it or not
- and to try to obey her strictures as best you can. That is the only way to
survive and to prosper.
This may seem a basic point, but it took me a long time to grasp. Yet it is an
utterly crucial point, one of the key concepts that any believer must accept and
come to terms with. Christopher Hitchens has asserted that one of the four
'irreducible objections' to religious faith is that 'it manages to combine the
maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism' . Many atheists seem
exasperated by '[t]he worshipper's tedious refrain about the greatness of God
and the feebleness of Man' . But - and Hitchens, to his credit, understands
this - once you accept the proposition that a Creator God exists, no other
mindset is logical. Criticism of God (a very different thing to criticism of
organised religion) becomes pointless.
The prophet Isaiah conceived the issue in these terms:
You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He did not make me'? Can the pot
say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?
(Isaiah 29:16. See also Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:20-22)
I would ask the reader to keep in mind this image - of God as the moulder of a
clay pot - in reading this next chapter.
Now, if there is such a God, it seems fair to assume that the Universe was
created for a purpose. One of the keys to theology, then, must be to try to
discern what that purpose was, and is. How are we to go about doing so? My own
view is that the answer is to be found in a careful consideration of the nature
of Man. What, exactly, has God created in Man? By distilling the essence of what
it is to be a human being (as opposed to a ray of light, or a rock, or a tree,
or a fish, or a dog) we can begin to lead ourselves towards the probable truth.
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