Lord Richard Harris, the once Bishop of Oxford, and author of Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith, participated in a podcast discussion with the former Catholic priest, now agnostic philosopher, Sir Anthony Kenny and Justin Brierly, the host of the Unbelievable podcast. During the interview, he reflected:
“On [the] issue of transcendence…. there is something about the experience of beauty which is tantalizing. It … mysteriously pulls us into itself and beyond itself, but it is ultimately ungraspable.” Harris likened this “mysterious pull” to “an elusive call that haunts us” and which “has its fulfillment in God.”
Harris is quick to note that the tantalizing pull of beauty is not an argument for the existence of God, but it’s also not irrational. He says, “Once you come to believe [Christianity], everything falls into place. It coheres together. This experience of beauty makes sense, as the experience of morality makes sense.”
Of course, this observation is reminiscent of CS Lewis when he said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Sitting opposite of Harris, Sir Anthony disagreed, saying that he grew up in the church, but Christianity makes less sense to him today than it did when he was younger. As “proof” he commented on a couple of different aspects of theology (the idea of punishment for sin among them) that don’t make sense to him any more.
As I listened to him I thought, as I often do when I listen to atheists and decided agnostics, that Kenny puts a great deal of stock in what he, himself, thinks. Because it makes no sense to him, it makes no sense at all, which he asserts as a brute fact. In that sense, he elevates his own understanding into the place of an ultimate arbiter of truth.
Of course, what else are we to do?
That’s a fair question. We only have ourselves, ultimately, as tools for deciphering truth. Continue reading “Reflections on Confidence in Faith and Atheism”