Science is really good at measuring things. If I’m out fishing and catch a Kokanee salmon, science, with its tools of measurement and comparison, will provide all I need for bragging rights by telling me the fish’s weight, age, length and girth.
But if I want to speak about how it feels to sense the fish on the other end of the line, or how the light sparkles on the water when I am angling, science can’t help me. Even if I want to exaggerate the size of the lunker I landed, science can’t help me. A scientist can devise a test that measures excitement; a scientist can see where my brain lights up when I feel union with the world around me; a scientist can hook me up to a lie detector. But science cannot define the nature of compassion between species, how it feels to be at peace or why it’s so much fun to tell whoppers. For this, we have religious language and poetry.
So can we prove the existence of God? By the standards of science, no. If God by definition is immeasurable and incomprehensible, then the tools of science are of no use to us. Science quantifies; it cannot speak about things that cannot be counted. Yet those things are real. Suppose I am fishing in an area where an enormous salmon makes its home. I can’t see it or touch it or measure it. Because I don’t have a fish finder, I can’t even check its position. I have no proof, just the stories I’ve heard. Does it not exist because I am unable to observe it? Of course not. That’s just an error in reasoning.
Some science-minded people say you can prove God doesn’t exist, because everything about life can be explained by the theory of evolution. I’m not convinced by this argument, since no one actually knows why or how evolution came into being.
So can we prove the existence of God using religion and poetry? I’d argue that the answer is still no. Religion and poetry are designed to invoke and describe, not prove or disprove. Using the Bible to prove that God exists is another error in reasoning. A biblical passage can tell you how someone else experienced the presence of God; it can bring you deeply into an experience of the Holy. But it can’t prove anything, nor was it meant to.
The biggest problem with this question is our culture’s simplistic understanding of God. Whenever anyone tells me they don’t believe in God, I like to say, “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in.” They usually respond by describing some version of a good fairy handing out treats to her favourites, or a malevolent judge punishing indiscriminately. What they usually mean is that — in the fairy version — life isn’t as nice as they were led to believe, or — the judge version — they don’t want anything to do with an abusive god. As a Christian, I don’t believe in those gods either. It’s a matter of maturity: we’re supposed to get rid of our childish ideas of God when we grow up. It’s just that after we get rid of them, it helps to find a more thoughtful version.
Language forces us to imagine God as a person or an entity — “God” as a noun. But this is a confusing and confused way to think about the subject. Remember: God, by definition, is beyond definition. For my part, I turn to the religious and poetic guides who speak of God as verb rather than noun. God is being, not a being. God is relationship, not a relationship.
God is breath being breathed, the shimmering between two people in love, the pulsing that cracks us open to the created world. God is the growing, the greening, the throbbing of life within and among all things. God is hearts breaking and lovers loving and parents protecting. God is in the action; might it not be better to speak of “godding” than God?
I can prove the existence of “godding” because it’s not something that is measured; it’s something that is felt. I feel it in my home and workplace and garden; on the street; in 12-step meetings, the Lord’s Supper and music; in ocean and forest. And although I experience the opposite of “godding” too often, it is not proof that godding doesn’t exist. It’s just proof of an error in reasoning.
Rev. Therese Descamp operates Heart’s Rest Retreats in New Denver, B.C.
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