Chapter 3: Reasonability of Theistic Belief
In the previous chapters, we tried to show the possibility and reasonability of religious belief by showing that belief, whether atheistic or theistic, is intrinsic to reason. Reason is naturally believing. In this chapter, we would like to discuss the reasonability of theistic belief, in general, and of the Christian belief in God in particular. As usual, the framework for our reflection is the evolving universe.
The secular world does not see both the presence of and the need for God today. But sincere seekers of the truth must pose the question. Of course, our day is not unique in posing the question. Humanity since its inception has always posed the God-question, but has never arrived at a consensus.
The issue between atheists and theists as to whether God is real is either an absurdity or a mystery. For it would seem that so far there has been no way available for settling the question to the satisfaction of both in spite of the claims on both sides of settling the question once and for all. Each is just as convinced of its position as the other. One side says: Wait and see; in the end you will be finally convinced that there is a God who was present all along, and without whom man could not have achieved what he now is and has. The other says: Wait and see; reason will be able to answer everything; you will then be convinced that there is no God, that there is only man.
Past attempts to settle the issue, apart from coercion and suppression, have been to accuse the other of irrationality. Thus, the atheists would say that religion is a mere illusion needed by the weak who are unable to confront the harsh realities of the world, and that, given enough time and research, science can answer all questions so that we would no longer need God as a problem solver. Religion as belief in God is an opium of the people diverting man’s energies from the needful tasks of this world to an illusory heaven above; it is a projection of man’s inner insecurities, and consequently must be annihilated if man must be fully himself. Religion is nothing but a form of alienation from self.
The theists, on the other hand, accuse the atheists of perverted reason, of a reason blinded by scientism and materialism. Atheists are accused as representatives of puny little man bloated with pride who dares to stand up to God to challenge him. They then try to show to the atheists proofs for the existence of God based on reason alone, so they claim.
Both approaches close all avenues to dialogue. The cardinal rule should be that both respect each other’s position and believe in each other’s sincerity. Granting all this, however, the absurdity, or the mystery, if you like, is that the same human reason arrives at opposite conclusions. Now, there must be something radically inadequate in this human reason which arrives at two radically opposed conclusions. It will not do to call one’s reasoning the use of right reason, while the other’s use of it is perverted. But neither could we say that both positions are right, for this would be for reason to contradict itself. To save reason its rationality, we must say that both positions are based on belief. Thus it is not a question of reason versus faith as a question of one belief versus another. This observation has not always been acknowledged in the past. The traditional view was that atheism employed reason alone to arrive at its position, while theism employed the aid of faith.
In the attempt to dialogue with the atheist, the theist would go outside the context of his faith and meet the atheist within the field of reason alone. But the presupposition is false, since the question of God of its very nature is in the context of belief. Whatever position one takes on it is based on belief. In the current discussions between theists and atheists, the presupposition is that in settling the question of God there be only the theist and the atheist. God could not be brought in as a third active member in the discussion, for this would be to beg the question. The assumption is that human reason alone can prove or disprove the reality of God. But can it?
In settling the question of God we must pay attention to the requirement of the "object" under discussion. The uniqueness of God precisely is to show that the atheist and theist cannot settle the question of God alone by themselves. From the point of view of reason, it is most logical that we do not beg the question under discussion. But in conforming to this requirement of reason, we have reduced God into a passive object. The setup is valid for settling problems in which the supposed issue or "fact" is within one’s or both’s beck and call. Let us illustrate what we mean. For example, Mr. A. says that he has a beautiful dog, and Mr. B. says, "No, I don’t believe it." Then, for A to prove his case, all he has to do is whistle for his dog or get the dog and present him to B. Thus, the dog is within A’s beck and call; he possesses the "fact" and is master of it. Or again, in a case in which both A and B don’t have the "fact" -- as, for example, that there is supposedly a new bear in the zoo -- all they have to do is go to the zoo and see. The second case is really the same as the first, except that now the question is not between A and B, for neither has the fact, but between A and B, on the one hand, and the zoo keeper, on the other. In either case, some party has the fact. But now, in the question of the "fact" of God, God by presupposition is not some object within one’s beck and call. He is not a possession. It would seem that the theist has the "fact," that God is in his possession. But I, as a believer, do not have God the way I possess an object, so as to have it in my power to present the object to one who wants proof. I do not possess God; he possesses me. My possession of God is more like me having a master whom I know can accomplish wonders since I have seen them, so that in a sense I possess the knowledge of them, but it is not within my power to perform them nor do I have the authority to call the master and tell him to show my friend his presence. So whether the master is real or not or whether he can do the things I claim he can is not something to be settled between myself and my friend alone. The issue depends on the will of the master to present or reveal himself, and we will just have to wait patiently for the master’s own good time to reveal the "fact" and settle the question for my friend. It is the same between the theist and the atheist. They cannot just sit down, have a dialogue and hope to settle their differences by themselves. If God does not decide to reveal himself, the atheist will not see.
Many theists are really unconsciously pelagianistic when they think they can prove to a non-theist the existence of God through reason alone, for this is to presuppose that one had God at one’s beck and call.’ What is the use of a dialogue then? The purpose in entering a dialogue with atheists is not to convert them or prove them wrong about the existence of God. Explicit faith is a gift; it does not come from me to him, but from God to him. So, if he comes to believe explicitly in God, it is not I who gave the faith to him. My purpose in the dialogue is for the greater understanding, purification and clarification of both our formulations, in order that the theist be a better theist, and the atheist a better atheist. Atheism has been most helpful in purifying the theistic notion of God. God is no longer a tyrant, a God up above, a problem solver, an immovable First Cause aloof and remote from the world. The atheists in their turn are forced to strengthen their reasons for their position. And if they still oppose theism, they should oppose it for the right reasons and not because of past faulty formulations of theists.
So what I present here on the reasonability of theistic belief is for a double purpose: first, for intramural dialogue, that is, between theists, in order that we may make our theistic formulation more meaningful and relevant to the modern world, and second, for Marxist-Christian dialogue, that atheists may understand Christian theism better.
The first step in our study is a negative approach, that is, a consideration of the reasons why I think Marxism as a form of religious belief is inadequate. My critique will be from within the context of evolution and dialectic, which both the Marxists and I accept.
Marxism is a reasonable act of belief, to a degree, at least, for one who takes it as an object of supreme valuation. But I believe that its act of belief is not differentiated enough, and this I shall attempt to show, not because it does not believe in God, but because it does not achieve a total differentiation of reason. In other words, the adequacy of a religious act of belief is measured by the degree to which reason is radically transformed, since we established in the first chapter that the fulfillment of reason is in its radical transformation and rebirth through the act of religious belief.
Let us consider then what the nature of the total or radical transformation of reason ought to be so that we can decide what kind of religious belief is most adequate to achieve this true transformation.
Recall what we said earlier about the nature of qualitative transformation.2 The notion of qualitative transformation means that a developing or evolving reality always evolves from A to non-A, since for a thing to maintain itself, it must become other than itself. Thus, for an acorn to maintain itself, it has to evolve toward the oak. Again, matter, to maintain itself in process, and thus escape entropy, evolves toward non-matter, namely, life. The evolution is from inanimate matter to animate matter. Living matter in its turn, which is purely vegetative or non-sensitive, to maintain its continued evolution is qualitatively transformed into sensitive life. And sensitive life in its turn evolves toward the super-sensitive, i.e., the irrational (instinct) becomes rational (reflective and self-conscious).
By reason of symmetry with the lower levels, and following the general law of qualitative transformation, we would expect reason as a process (noogenesis) to become qualitatively transformed. Now, the secularists, naturalistic evolutionists and Marxists do accept the evolution of reason, but I am afraid they do not know how to look for the right phenomenon which points to the direction reason is being transformed. They are much like the physicists of the past who refused to see life as the direction toward which physical, mechanical and chemical transformations were tending, or again like the biologists of old who refused to see in consciousness the direction that life was tending. In effect, they either try to reduce life to matter or consciousness to life, or they claim that in truth the evolution of matter or that of life has stopped. They refuse to see that, in the molecular world, the unique event of the germination of the cell is the true direction and goal of the evolution of matter, or that, in the biological world, the unique event of the emergence of consciousness (reflection) is the direction and goal of life. Man is still reduced to an instance of an animal instead of seeing the phenomenon of reflection as giving birth to a radically new dimension, that of the thinking layer or the noosphere. Such a view, however, is not without its principle of explanation. For in the realm of science, truth is based on the majority, not on the unique. General laws are derived statistically, based on large numbers, such that the unique is an exception. All this is true, as long as we presuppose a relatively static context in which changes are purely quantitative. But in an historical or evolutionary continuum, this scientific method is inapplicable; in fact, to see the truth of an evolving reality, the opposite of the scientific method is the true method -- that is one has to look for the unique event for the truth of the process. In all processes, there is at the beginning of the process a ramification, a multiplication in large numbers, but the point to this is that ultimately there be a radical transformation. All that rise must converge. When water is heated to boiling point, the direction of the process is toward the evaporation of water. But at the moment of evaporation, the event is unique; it is not generalized.
Now, the Marxists accept qualitative transformation at the lower levels of the evolutionary process, but at the level of reason, they fail to apply the law of qualitative change. Hence, they are not Marxists enough. Thus, they see matter as having evolved toward reason, but then they see the evolution of reason itself as confined purely to the material level -- from one material economic system to another which in turn conditions ideology or the superstructure of society. But this transformation of society in terms of increased material goods and a better way of life and opportunity for all is purely quantitative increase, not qualitative. All these changes are quite within the sphere of conceptual reason to grasp and to attain. A knowledge of these things will not transform reason qualitatively. One can absolutize this world-view, one can devote one’s entire life to its realization, and, to a degree, reason is somehow reborn to a new dimension of religious belief, but the transformation is not complete; it does not bring reason to the fullest dimension of belief in which reason becomes radically and totally transformed. To use Teilhard’s phrase, the evolution of reason envisioned by the Marxists is purely tangential, not radial. By the laws of symmetry in the evolutionary process, in terms of which inanimate matter is radically transformed into a new dimension, life, vegetative life, transformed into sense life, and sense life into rational life, so, reason, we would expect, must be transformed into something other than reason. This transformation could only be at the level of the spiritual. To refuse to give reason an opening toward the spiritual is like confining the growth of the acorn to being a super-acorn without its ever becoming an oak. The qualitative transformation which the Marxists allow from one economic structure to another: from slave society to the feudalistic, from the feudalistic to the capitalistic, and from the capitalistic to the communistic (supposedly), is, in terms of the evolution of reason, merely quantitative change.
For many, the suprarational as the true direction for reason’s qualitative transformation is automatically disqualified as a possibility because of its supposedly supratemporal and other-worldly character. But as we have shown in the previous chapter, religious belief in which a spiritual belief can take place is an evolutionary dimension of reality. Of course, one could still deny the suprarational as the true direction, but it should not be for the reason that it is other-worldly. Spiritual belief or faith is an evolutionary level beyond rational experience. That it is the true direction for reason is confirmed from the fact that at the lower levels the true direction is always toward a level that is beyond the awareness, grasp or measure of that which is being transformed. Thus, rationality which is the direction of the evolution of instinct is beyond the sense experience of animals, and life which is the goal of the evolution of matter is beyond the measure and laws of matter. If these observations are true, then the communist utopia of full material prosperity and superabundance which is well within the conceptual experience of reason is not the goal for the radical and qualitative transformation of reason. The vision of an indefinite progress and increase in technology, rational and social organization, is like the indefinite extension of a line, hence, still a one-dimensional change, whereas what is demanded is the qualitative transformation of the line into a surface, so as to attain a true infinite or a new dimension. I do not deny that, to a degree, Marxist humanism is able to humanize man, but I believe that it does not fully humanize him. I will even admit that Marxist humanism in its very acceptance of and fidelity to the world and man contains an implicit spiritual faith, but I think that Marxist belief is underdeveloped, undifferentiated.
In my view, the Christian faith satisfies the requirement needed for the full qualitative transformation of reason, first because faith is a new dimension that transcends conceptual reason and to which reason is reborn to the spiritual. Second, the Christian faith offers man something bigger than life, something greater than man-made things like culture and technology. It offers true transcendence in the spiritual transformation of both reason and the world.
If the Christian faith is the fulfillment of reason, then it has the truth about the world. Methodologically, then, it is from faith that I shall try to understand the world. But my understanding of the faith is set in the context of an evolving universe; therefore, it is from this total context that I try to show the reasonability of my theistic belief and the inadequacy of atheism and other forms of theism, a task to which I shall now address myself.
I shall begin by saying that I no longer find the so-called traditional "proofs" for God’s existence meaningful for clarifying my belief in God. I go along with Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx and Sartre and the modern death-of-God theologians that the God of traditional metaphysics is dead, and that in relation to this formulation, it is more Christian to be atheistic than theistic. My main reason for giving up the traditional arguments is that I no longer believe in a dualistic framework in which these arguments were derived. But for that matter, I do not quite accept the "atheism" of Marx or of the death-of-God theologians for the very same reason, namely, that their counter-arguments against traditional theism also take their point of departure from the dualistic framework.
Let us briefly review some representative arguments for the reality of God, not to make a critique of the arguments themselves, but to show the dualistic framework as their point of departure.
For the mind of a Platonic cast, the ideal was more real than the real, more other-worldly than worldly. Consequently, for Augustine, Anselm, Descartes and Leibniz, God was situated in the ideal order. The starting point for the search for God was in reason itself, since it was most akin to the pure ideas and because reason was considered to be in the ideal order. Faith in God was formulated intellectually as an Idea in reason to be intuited or illuminated. But St. Thomas considered these idealistic arguments illegitimate since it was a fallacy, he claimed, to make a transition from the ideal to the real order. For St. Thomas, the starting point was the cosmological order. He explained his belief in God by using the basic argument from contingency which postulates an Efficient Cause. But he, like his predecessors, tried to locate God beyond the contingent, except that this beyond was no longer the ideal but the metaphysical. In both cases, God was protected from contingency and change by being situated in the region of atemporality and ahistoricity. There were objections made against these "proofs" like the one made by Kant who noted that one cannot argue from finite causes to the Infinite Cause, because from the finite all one gets is the finite.
Hegel tried to bridge the ideal and the cosmological orders by identifying God with both. For Hegel, God was an a priori presupposition of his philosophy. In the Hegelian dialectic, God as Idea had to externalize itself into Nature (Man) which then must be negated in order that the third moment, the Absolute Spirit, may emerge and be fulfilled. In the end, however, idealism triumphs. Marx, following Feuerbach, rebelled against the ideal God of Hegel because it drew men away from the world. Instead of an ideal God, Marx presents us with man alone as God.
In more recent times, neo-classical theism (Whiteheadian process philosophy and theology) has reacted against the remote, transcendent, immutable and uninvolved God of classicism by making God totally immanent as evolving Deity.
And lastly, the modern secularizers consider the notion of God as essentially metaphysical. Therefore, in doing away with metaphysics, they also do away with God, either actually as an event or culturally as a notion and formulation.
Now, from the very sketchy review made of thought on God, we observe that they all stem from the same dualistic tradition. The atheism of Marxism and of the modem secularizers is really the choosing of one side of the dualism, while the theism of the traditionalists is the choosing of the other side. But if the dualism is false, then not only the theistic formulation but also the atheistic position becomes irrelevant and insignificant. The assumption of the secularizers and the atheists that the reality of God stands or fails with the reality of metaphysics is false.
I believe that the correct context for thinking about God is the evolutionary context, that is, the world in process. In starting with the evolving world, I do not presuppose like the naturalists or Marxists that the world is self-sufficient, i.e., that it has all the powers needed to evolve itself, for this presupposition which is really nothing else but the notion of an Aristotelian nature has not really transcended the dualism of a natural and a supernatural order.
God as Ground of Evolution
Now those who accept the evolutionary perspective are generally agreed that the universe is one single process and that there are stages in the process: the evolution of matter, next the emergence of the first unicellular organisms, then a process of further evolution of life toward vegetative and animal life, and from this latter phase emerged man.
By studying the nature of the process, a scientist might argue that he can make sense out of the evolutionary process without the postulate of God. I agree that the scientist does not need the God-postulate. In fact, if he is to be true to the scientific method, he cannot bring God into the picture even if he wanted to, for by the methods of science, there is no way of verifying whether God is present or not. The scientist as scientist does not make a choice for or against God. But one cannot extrapolate the method of science and make it an absolute criterion for deciding the God-question and making the assertion that the universe is self-sufficient. For in so doing, one has begun to exceed the competence of science, inasmuch as such a statement is not scientific but philosophic, and to accept the statements of science as universal facts is scientism.
The notion of a self-sufficient and self-transcendent universe is not a scientific notion but a philosophic and theological one, that is, one based on a postulate or presupposition not susceptible to empirical verification. We can determine however whether it makes philosophical sense or not. Now I find difficulty with this notion. Self-transcendence, I take it, does not mean the mere explicitation of a reality implicit in the beginning but rather the creation of novelty. If this is the case, then one is faced with the problem of explaining how the higher level of one and the same process came from the lower level without denying at the same time the principle of causality. In reply, it might be answered that the distinction between a higher and a lower stage is an abstraction, since in process concretely taken, there is only the self-transcending process without a lower and a higher stage. However, if we believe seriously in time, then there must have been a time when this self-transcending process did not have the present higher stage of being. If so, how could it have attained this stage? It could, it might be argued, precisely because it is of the nature of this process to transcend itself. In support of this contention, it might be pointed out to me that we can argue by analogy to the self-transcendence of the universe from instances of transcendence which can be empirically verified. Thus, an empirical and first-hand evidence of self-transcendence would be my own experience as a self-transcending being. But this argument really begs the question, since it is being presupposed that my experience is one of self-transcendence, that is, as solely caused by me and not through the cooperation of another.
Another line of argument in support of the notion of the self-sufficiency and self-transcendence of the universe, and hence of the uselessness of the God-postulate, is the experience of duration. I will be told to experience process in its totality and not cut it up into past, present and future. What I am being asked, in other words, is to see the process timelessly. But is this not a static view of process, in which there is really no becoming and creativity? In fact, is it not a more static view than the Aristotelian view of becoming which sees everything that comes forth as already pre-contained in the beginning, for this latter, at least, allows for a becoming, whereas in the former, there is a mere juxtaposition of one stage with the other?
From a mere reflection on the notion of evolution, it is not easy to see the contradiction in the notion of a self-transcendent and self-sufficient universe. Therefore, let us take examples of development and see whether or not the notion of self-transcendence or self-sufficiency is verified. Let us take the simple case of a seed that germinates, grows and bears fruit. Now, this seems to be a perfect example of a self-transcending and self-sufficient process. The seed seems to be able to evolve itself into a plant; the plant is able to flower and bear fruit, all by itself without the help of another plant. It would seem that it had all the natural powers within it from the beginning to attain its natural end of bearing fruit. In short, it is an autonomous, independent, and self-functioning unit; it is an organism. From this superficial observation, it is easy to make the extrapolation and argue that the universe is like an organism that is self-sufficient, self-transcending. But upon closer examination we realize that the seed alone by itself apart from the ground cannot really evolve itself. The seed left alone on the table will not evolve, cannot transcend itself. It has need of the soil, moisture, air, sunlight, etc. -- in short, of its "ground" or "other." Call the "ground" a condition; if you will, call it cause. The fact is, the "ground" is necessary to the development of the seed. What is true of the seed is true of the fetus. Thus, the fetus has need of the womb as its "ground" or "other." Again, the living organism has need of its environment; the human "I" has need of its "Thou."
In the context of evolution, being always needs an "other." There is no process we are aware of that does not require an "other." If this is true, then why should we now make an exception in the case of the macrocosmic process and say that it is self-sufficient, that it has no need of its own proper ground or "other"? Could it be perhaps because of our inherited legacy from hellenic thought which makes us see things as substances or natures that are self-sufficient? Could it be because of our scientific and philosophic method of examining things as specimens, forms? Or could it be because of our habit of "defining" things by cutting them off, separating and abstracting them from an undifferentiated whole?
However, the law of an evolutionary universe is that, at all levels, independence is attained through union, hence, through another. No being is an island. The more the seed unites itself with the ground, the more it sinks its roots in it, the more it attains differentiation and thus self-sufficiency. On the other hand, if it separates itself from the ground, it does not attain differentiation and independence because it begins to shrivel up and die. The same is true for the fetus, for the living organism in relation to its environment, for the human "I" in relation to the "Thou." But let us examine all the levels of the evolutionary process to see if there is any exception to the law that self-sufficiency and self-transcendence are not in going it alone but in union. Thus, at the lowest level, electrons tend to unite and converge in the atom; atoms converge by molecularization, crystallization; molecules unite by polymerization; cells unite by conjugation, reproduction, association; nerve ganglions concentrate and localize to form a brain by what might be called a process of cephalization; the higher animal groups form colonies, hives, herds, societies, etc.; man socializes and forms civilizations as foci of attraction and organization. Teilhard de Chardin admirably sums up the universal law that transcendence is in union thus:
In any domain -- whether it be the cells of a body, the members of a society or the elements of a spiritual synthesis -- union differentiates. In every organized whole, the parts perfect themselves and fulfill themselves. Through neglect of this universal rule many a system of pantheism has led us astray to the cult of a great All in which individuals were supposed to be merged like a drop in the ocean or like a dissolving grain of salt. Applied to the case of the summation of consciousnesses, the law of union rids us of this perilous and recurrent illusion. No, following the confluent orbits of their centers, the grains of consciousness do not tend to lose their outlines and blend, but, on the contrary, to accentuate the depth and incommunicability of their egos. The more "other" they become in conjunction, the more they find themselves as "self." 3
Now, those who believe in the macrocosmic process as a self-sufficient process might well concede that among parts of the universe union differentiates, that the law of transcendence is in union, but they do not see the need or cogency of applying this law to the universe itself. For they could well argue that what the parts cannot do, the whole can do. Thus, for example, they can show that what a single cell cannot do by itself, the body of which it is part can do. This argument, however, falls, because we have shown that although a body, say, a plant, can accomplish what the individual cells in it cannot do, e.g., flower and bear fruit, still, the plant needs the ground as its "other." The plant, as a whole, is self-sufficient relative to the parts, but not in the absolute sense of not needing an "other." Similarly, while it is true that the universe as a whole can accomplish what its parts cannot do, this does not imply absolute self-sufficiency but merely relative self-sufficiency. There is no justifiable reason why we should make an exception in the case of the universe to the universal law that anything that grows needs an "other"
Some atheists and naturalists usually base their argument for self-sufficiency and self-transcendence on man’s feeling of mastery of himself and of the universe. Man’s accomplishments are recounted and paraded before us. But this argument based on historical evidence is inconclusive because for every good deed or accomplishment, we could put alongside it an evil deed. Man as an individual and as a collective is composed of lights and shadows; he alternates between feelings of helplessness and of power. Every age has its pessimists and optimists. We cannot prove from historical evidence who is right. Thus, the argument based on the feelings, temperament and mood of an age is inconclusive. A solid argument should be based on something intellectual. Thus, an atheist or naturalist could argue that man does not need God as an "Other" or Ground because man’s "other" is other men or the community -- the classless community of the communists’ Utopia. That ideal community is slowly being achieved and it is being achieved by man alone. The God-postulate is not necessary to solve our human problems. Now, this argument is an intellectual argument and deserves an intellectual analysis.
That man’s "other" is other men or the community seems quite convincing until it is submitted to the law of symmetry found on all levels of the evolving universe. In order to determine whether man’s "other" is other men, we should go to the lower levels of evolution to learn what otherness is and means for things that grow and evolve. Now, at the lower level we find that the "other" of the molecule is not another molecule but the cell. In other words, the "other" of non-life is not non-life but life. Or, again, to use a more familiar example, the "other" of a seed is not another seed; it is not even a super-seed, or a "community" of seeds but a non-seed, that is, the ground. Accordingly, it would be against the symmetry of the evolutionary process to say that the "other" of man is other men. If the seed’s "other" is a non-seed (the soil), so we would expect by reason of symmetry that the "other" of man would be other-than-human, as other as the ground is from the seed, and not the otherness of a "superseed" from an ordinary seed. Hence, the "other" of man is not a superman.
Part of the difficulty in seeing th~ need for a Ground to the evolutionary process is that this Ground is not perceivable. Added to this is the inability of the common man to think paradoxically or in a polarized manner. When he is told to think of otherness, it is usually an other but within the same kind or species. Thus, the "other" of a seed is another seed; of man, another man. It is necessary to use polar or paradoxical thinking, for this is the very requirement of the "object" we are trying to understand. Without this pre-condition, we would be imposing false conditions and demands on the "object" before we see and accept it. It would be like the seed demanding that for it to accept the existence and reality of the ground, it be seen as another seed or as a plant. Clearly, the false presupposition precludes the chance for a correct answer.
God is not a being among other beings any more than the ground is a seed among seeds. The ground is in a totally different dimension, and hence unperceivable, so to speak, from the seed’s point of view. Just as the seed must learn to see beyond the world of the seed, beyond the forms and objects found there, so reason must learn to see beyond its world, beyond its logic, beyond the forms and objects found in it, for its "Other" and Ground. But here difficulty again confronts the atheist or naturalist, for when he hears someone speak of God as the Beyond, he immediately conjures up in his mind an other-worldly Being, a Being beyond this world. But the term "beyond" does not necessarily mean separation or remoteness. The ground is beyond or outside the world of the seed, it is true, but this does not mean separation or remoteness, for clearly, the ground is the presupposition of the seed; it is its ground, precisely, and hence its "within," so to speak, more immanent than the seed is to itself, for the seed is unthinkable apart from the ground; its very structuring (morphological, physiological, teleological) is for the ground. Similarly, God as the Ground of evolution is really the "Within" of the universe, its depth, if you will, more immanent to the universe than the universe is to itself, such that the universe is unthinkable apart from it, and yet, paradoxically, is not part of the universe. The inadequacy of the atheistic and naturalistic outlooks, it seems to me, is that they are "short-sighted." They take as their basic postulate that the meaning of the universe can be found only within itself; they rule out beforehand any transcendent source. But, again, this is like the seed trying to explain itself by itself, ruling out any explanation of itself beyond itself.
God as Ground-Alpha or Creator-Ground
Our previous argument for the need of a Ground was based on our analysis of the notion of growth, namely, that anything that grows needs a ground. Let us now introduce another argument to show the relevance of God to the universe by using the evolutionary category of birth.
Birth is an essential condition of all things in process. In other words, in an evolving universe, everything comes to be by birth. Even the universe is born. As Teilhard observes, the "universe . . . places itself among the realities which are born, which grow, and which die." 4 Now, obviously, from all instances of birth. nothing gives birth to itself but must be born from another. Thus, if the universe is born, then it must have come from a Creator who gave it being. If this is true, then the argument that the universe is self-sufficient and self-transcendent is false. The argument to show the need for a Creator seems to resemble the Thomistic argument from efficient causality (to which the other four proofs are reducible). There is, however, a difference. In a static universe, I could not argue that the universe itself had a beginning, although I can see that things in it are finite and have beginnings or origins. For it is invalid to argue from the finitude and contingency of the part to the finitude and contingency of the whole. So, if the universe is static I could not tell whether as a whole it is finite or contingent. But if it grows, then it must have been born, and if born, then there must have been a Creator-Ground that gave it birth. With the empirical evidence of the universe evolving, it is possible to accept the Thomistic argument from finitude and contingency as recast in evolutionary categories.5 Without the evolutionary category of birth, it would be impossible for us to argue that the universe had a Creator-Ground, for we would have to imagine process as a horizontal straight line that extends in either direction indefinitely and infinitely.
The Augustinian argument for God’s reality, an argument basically followed by Anselm’s ontological argument and Descartes’ form of it, which starts from the rational self rather than from the external world, could likewise be recast in terms of evolutionary categories.
The mistake in the traditional idealistic argument is not the method of searching for God in reason. In fact, this is its greatest insight, because if God is to be found at all, he would most likely be found in the highest reality in the universe, namely, reason. In this reasoning, Augustine was more logical than Thomas who started from the cosmos. The mistake in the idealistic argument is precisely its idealism, as was pointed out by Thomas. However, what was a mistake to Thomas was not a mistake to the Platonist to whom the ideal was real. The Platonist saw reason as ideal, that is, as separated from the external world and from the body. Logically, he would discover God there, and he did not feel the need to make a transition from the ideal to the cosmological order, for the latter was seen as the region of sin, contingency and error, and hence quite irrelevant. God must be protected from it and should not be related to it. Making God relevant to the world was utter nonsense to a Platonist whose task it was to escape from this world. But for one for whom the world is real, the idealistic argument becomes irrelevant.
The recasting to be done is in our understanding of reason. Paradoxically, we believe the argument from reason would make God relevant to the world, not because reason is idealistic but precisely because it is the most immanent dimension of the evolving universe. Too long have we considered reason as ideal, as removed from the contingency of the world, as outside the evolutionary process. Teilhard makes a note of this false outlook:6
Looking at the progress of transformist views in the last hundred years, we are surprised to see how naïvely naturalists and physicists were able at the early stages to imagine themselves to be standing outside the universal stream they had just discovered. Almost incurably subject and object tend to become separated from each other in the act of knowing. We are continually inclined to isolate ourselves from the things and events which surround us, as though we were looking at them from outside, from the shelter of an observatory into which they were unable to enter, as though we were spectators, not elements, in what goes on.
Reason, however, is part of the evolutionary process, nay, its most immanent part and paradoxically its most transcendent level since, being the future of the infrahuman level of evolution, it is the region of fullness of being and maturation, and hence the "within" of the becoming present and also its point of transcendence. With reason restored to its proper place in the world, we are not susceptible to the criticism of Thomas that we are making an illegitimate transition from the ideal to the real order.
Now, then, reason as part of the macrocosmic process is likewise in process, that is, it is still undergoing development as is manifested in the development of culture and civilization; the very constitution of history itself is the evolution of rational consciousness. In the previous chapter we also spoke of the evolution of reason toward the dimension of religious belief. If reason, then, is in process, it is subject to the universal law of growth, namely, that anything which grows needs a ground. Reason therefore requires a ground. This ground must be proportionate to the level of reason. Since reason is spiritual, personal, and hence fulfilled by love, then all these characteristics of reason must somehow be present in the Ground of reason, much as we would infer that the soil, in relation to the seed, is ultimately the source of its growth, flowering, and fruitfulness. Hence, the Ground of reason would be an attractive center of love, source of personalization and spiritual transformation.
Another merit of the traditional argument based on reason is the insight that God is somehow innate, somehow given a priori to reason. This insight is confirmed to be true by evolutionary analysis. In other words, the very posing of the question by reason, "Is there a God?" is a tautology, for the question contains the very answer. To see this, let us use again the example of the seed in relation to its ground. Thus, just as the very structure of the seed implies the existence of the ground and is intelligible only in relation to the ground, and a fortiori cannot even ask the question, "Is there a ground?" without implying the answer, so the very structure of reason, its very meaning and drive toward ultimate truth, implies the existence of God as Absolute Truth, as the very Ground of reason. Or again, just as the very existence of the plant implies its rootedness in the ground such that its very posing of the question, "Is there a ground?" would be tantamount to doubting its very existence, so the fact that I exist at all as a rational being already implies that God exists, as Descartes, for example, saw. Thus, reason implies in its very meaning the existence of its Ground, and the fact that it evolves at all implies the reality of its Ground. The whole process of evolution, as a matter of fact, tended toward reason in order that through it, the universe comes to an awareness of God as its Ground.
God as Ground-Omega or Absolute Future
So far we have argued that if the universe is born, it must have a Creator-Ground, and if it grows, it must have a Ground of growth. Now we are going to argue that a urn-verse that grows tends toward maturation, and that consequently it must have an Omega, that is, a convergent point in the absolute future.
We have to expect the universe to converge in the eschatological future; there has to be a critical threshold of radical transformation in which all the complexifying personal centers of consciousness are unified in an ultimate center of unity, if we are to be faithful to the mechanics and laws of the evolutionary process.
But what is the nature of this Omega? Is it other than the universe itself? It does not seem so at first glance, since the mature stage of a process is none other that the process itself. Thus, for example, the mature stage of a child, the adult, is none other than the same individual. If this is true, and we claim that the end of the maturation process is God, is this not tantamount to saying that the evolutionary process is really the evolution of God? As a matter of fact, some thinkers have identified God with the evolutionary process itself, seeing God as an emergent Deity.
To guide us in our reflection, it is necessary to consider examples of realities that are born, grow and mature. Perhaps an example taken from the level of noogenesis or the evolution of personal centers of consciousness would serve our need best, since the universe in its evolution has tended toward personalization and union in terms of love. Therefore, let us imagine the universe after the example of a human fetus in the womb which is therefore tending toward rebirth. This, incidentally, is the image used by St. Paul to convey the process of spiritual transformation and rebirth of the whole universe, in which Christ is the first-born or the first fruit. Pursuing the imagery, then, the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the womb would correspond to the birth of the urn-verse, the development and self-differentiation of the ovum would be its growth, and the birth outside the womb would be its maturation. Now, the parents, in this instance, would at once be the "creator" of the ovum (that is, the conceivers), the "ground" of growth (at least, the mother), and the "omega."
That the parents are the "omega" or goal of the fetus may not be easy to see, since the term of the fetus is its full development. But let us consider, however, what is the full meaning of birth. Now, the birth of the fetus has for its purpose the self-revelation of the fetus to itself. In the womb, it could not know itself, for its consciousness is undeveloped; besides it does not have sufficiently developed sense organs to perceive itself and differentiate itself from others. Birth is a fuller stage of self-differentiation because the infant is now separated from the womb and thus is able to come to know itself as other. However, birth is but a stage in self-differentiation. To complete the process of self-revelation and self-differentiation, the infant must come to know its parents, not only as "other" but as the source of his identity. In knowing its parents, the child comes to know itself as the true image of his parents and the incarnation of their love. At a still deeper level of self-knowledge, the child needs to develop his personality. He must become a person. His personality, however, can be constituted only in terms of love. Consequently, the child needs the parents as the focus of his love and as the principle of integration of his personality. Therefore, the fetus does not merely tend toward its own maturation, but rather, in order to achieve maturation, in the fullest sense of the term, it has to have an "other," in this case, the parents, as point of convergence, as principle of unification and integration, as revealer to the child of what it is; and to the degree that the child learns to love with the aid of his parents, to that degree he is differentiated and thus revealed to himself for what he is.
Similarly, we need an Omega as Other to reveal the evolutionary process to itself, and in knowing itself, it can come to a full knowledge of itself as the image of the Other. God is the Absolute Future that attracts us by his love, and in drawing us to himself, we achieve maturation, self-differentiation and self-understanding. We need God to know our origin, to know the image in us, and to have a focus for our love, for it is in loving that we achieve differentiation at the deepest level of our beings. In scriptural language, God is he who is to come, just as the parents come before the child’s view at birth. He is the Omega to whom we say: "Abba, Father!"
One of the reasons for the denial of the reality of God by modern secularizers, by Sartre, Nietzsche, Marx, etc., was the identification of God with the other-worldly, thus making God remote from the world and a threat to man’s humanity because one had to abandon the world to attain God. But atheists should not now deny the reality of God on this score if God were presented as the Ground of the universe in process, since to attain the Ground is not a destruction of the universe or its abandonment, but its differentiation and fulfillment. God as Ground is not a threat to human growth or a threat to human and earthly values, for he is the necessary condition for their fruition and maturation. True humanization is a divinization, but this divinization is not at the expense of humanity, nor is it a going outside the world, for just as the more the seed sinks its roots in the ground, the more it becomes itself, so the more the universe unites itself with its Ground, the more it becomes fully itself.
These reflections here made may be considered as nothing but a commentary on the Apocalypse: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty" (1:8). Thus, God who gives "birth" to the universe, or God as Creator-Ground, is the Alpha or he-who-was; God as Ground of evolution or growth is God as he-who-is; and God as the Absolute Future of the universe, the term of the process, is the Omega, or he-who-is-coming, or will be.
1 The true search for God is to pray as if there were a God. The right attitude for the search is not to act the scientist or philosopher making conditions or stipulations for belief, but to act like a little child. This means that reason must not be taken too seriously, for it is underdeveloped.
2 Incidentally, qualitative change is a Marxist notion.
3 The Phenomenon of Man, p. 262.
4 Ibid., p.51.
5 We cannot emphasize often enough that these arguments for God’s reality are not being presented as arguments based on reason alone. They are not meant to cause faith or belief in God. Rather, they are reflections proceeding from belief in God.
6 Ibid., pp. 218-19.