the imaginative conservative logo

The narratives of science and Christianity are obviously not novels, nor works of fiction, for both claim to tell the true story of humankind—where we came from, what we are, and where we are going. To determine if either of these narratives is true, we must assess the plot…

In 1882, Nietzsche’s madman ran to the marketplace of Western Civilization in the bright morning hours, carrying a lighted lantern and shouting incessantly, “I seek God! I seek God!”

Many about him were atheists. The bemused citizens laughed and yelled, “Has he got lost? Has he emigrated?”

The madman jumped into their midst; his eyes pierced the atheists. “Where is God?” he cried, “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I.”

“Are we not straying, as through an empty nothingness?” the madman warned. “Is not night closing in on us? God is dead. And we have killed him.”

In despair, he shouted, “I’ve come too early!”[1]

In the twenty-first century, we successors of the century of mass political murder[2] know that the Death of God means that the Christian story is no longer the prevailing narrative that orders and shapes nearly everyone’s life in Western societies. Furthermore, we know that the new stories of capitalism, nationalism, and political utopia died in the twentieth century, although the fading stories of Adam Smith, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx are heard by a small minority. Some in the agora believe that the material abundance of industrialism will make them happy; a few hold to the tenet that their destiny is linked to their Nation-State, but virtually no one feels that humankind is headed toward utopia. For most us, Hiroshima killed the comforting narrative that the progress of science and technology leads to universal happiness; the Gulag destroyed the utopian story of humans instituting a perfect political order; the Holocaust annihilated Nietzsche’s myth that the ascendance of the Overman, the perfect race, will raise humankind to a new level of existence.

In our post-truth society, scientists and technologists still believe that science is the only path to reality and continue to tell the story that “the universe, including all aspects of human life, is the result of the interactions of little bits of matter,”[3] a story intended to replace the Christian narrative but accidentally will finish off the stories of Taoism, Buddhism, and Islam, as well. With glee and enthusiasm, scientists and technologists proceed in their storytelling.

The Grand Narrative of Science

In the beginning, the Big Bang, a spontaneous, quantum fluctuation of the vacuum state, gave rise to our universe. For 10-32 seconds, the nascent universe underwent a rapid expansion, increasing its size from far less than a proton to that of a grapefruit. The early universe passed through three epochs, the electroweak, the quark, and the hadron, before helium nuclei formed some ten minutes after the Big Bang. About 380,000 years later, photons no longer interacted strongly with matter, and hydrogen and helium nuclei captured electrons to form stable atoms.

The Big Bang posed to cosmologists what physicist Steven Weinberg called the “problem of Genesis.”[4] Our universe—including matter, energy, space, and time—is almost certainly a one-time event that had a definite beginning. The physical universe is not eternal. But something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing. The material universe cannot be the thing that always existed, because matter had a beginning some thirteen billion years ago. Therefore, whatever has always existed is nonmaterial. The only nonmaterial reality seems to be mind. If mind is what has always existed, then matter must have been brought into existence by a mind that always was, by an intelligent, eternal being who created all things ex nihilo. Such a being is what theologians mean by God.

Like every story, the Grand Narrative of Science must be coherent. The unifying theme of science storytelling—everything in the universe, even the universe itself, is the result of the interactions of tiny bits of matter—demands that God cannot exist.

The most sophisticated way to avoid the theological consequences of the Big Bang is to invoke quantum physics, where the everyday rules of cause and effect do not apply. Polonium-210, used by former KGB agents to poison enemies of the Russia state, is a very rare, unstable element. Given a sample of Polonium-210, after 138 days, only half remains. Polonium-210 nuclei decay spontaneously; quantum physicists, in the 1920s, discovered that no cause exists for why a particular nucleus decays at a particular time. All nuclear decay is governed by chance; only a probability can be assigned to the decay of a particular nucleus.

Quantum effects must have been once important on a cosmic scale because shortly after the Big Bang the universe was smaller than a proton. Accordingly, the universe may have just happened, just popped into existence, the way that elementary particles are now thought to pop into existence and then disappear. According to this line of argumentation, there is no cause for the universe, either natural or supernatural.

For at least one hundred million years, the universe was remarkably homogenous, with little-to-no structure. But quantum fluctuations in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang produced ripples in the universe. Later, those ripples caused gases to coalesce into proto-galaxies and the luminous seeds of the first stars. The first adult stars, short-lived behemoths, exploded and ejected heavy elements into the universe. When the universe was five hundred million years old, the first galaxies appeared. The early universe was exceedingly violent; galaxies gobbled up smaller mass galaxies; stars exploded and new ones formed out of the debris. Nine billion years after the Big Bang, the Sun, a late-generation star, came into being by incorporating the remains from many generations of earlier stars.

Four and a half billion years ago, the Earth and other planets formed out of the disk-shaped mass of dust and gas left over from the formation of the Sun. One hundred million years later, the molten, outer layer of the Earth cooled to a solid crust. Soon, the oceans arose from condensing water vapor, supplemented by ice and liquid water delivered by asteroids, large proto-planets, and comets.

Our universe is bio-friendly. If, as seems likely, life requires a star like the Sun, supplying energy at a constant rate for billions of years, then for life to be possible, the strength of the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nuclei of atoms must be within a narrow range. If the strong force were slightly stronger, no hydrogen; if less than half its present strength, no heavy elements. Either way, life is impossible.

The same pattern recurs with many other fundamental constants of nature. Exploding stars (supernovas) play an essential part in the chemical evolution of galaxies. Right after the Big Bang, the material of the universe was primarily hydrogen and helium. Heavier elements were later synthesized inside of stars. These stars aged, eventually exploded, and dispersed into space the heavier elements that were in their interiors. The carbon in the sugars we eat, the iron in our red blood cells, and the calcium in our bones came from exploding stars. But exploding stars would not be possible if the weak interaction that governs the decay of neutrons into protons, electrons, and neutrinos was slightly altered. The weak interaction appears suited to making life possible in the universe.

The list of fine-tuned physical properties that make life possible goes on and on. Without the fine-tuning of atomic constants, water would not exist as a liquid, chains of carbon atoms would not form complex organic molecules, and hydrogen atoms would not form breakable bridges between molecules.

The most striking fine-tuning is the expansion of the universe. If the universe were expanding too slowly, it would re-collapse into oblivion. If the universe were expanding too fast, matter would become isolated and galaxies would not form. In reality, the expansion of the universe is exquisitely tuned to insure the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets.

The evidence that the universe is uniquely suited for life is undeniable, no physicist doubts this. The strong anthropic principle states that the universe must have those properties that allow intelligent life to appear at some stage in its history. After the Big Bang, the universe appears to be aiming at life and at intelligent observers. Physicist John Archibald Wheeler asks, “What possible sense it could make to speak of ‘the universe’ unless there was someone around to be aware of it.”[5]

A universe aiming at the production of intelligent observers implies a mind directing it; for matter on its own cannot aim at anything. A mind that directs the whole universe, all the laws of nature, and all the properties of matter to a goal is called God by theologians.

To make the Grand Narrative of Science consistent, the anthropic principle must be rejected; otherwise, a universe designed for life demands a supernatural Designer.

The latest way to accept the evidence that the universe is uniquely suited for life and deny the existence of God is to appeal to a multiverse, an appeal that can be rooted in either cosmology or particle physics. Some cosmologists adhere to the theory of eternal inflation, where our Big Bang is just one of an infinite number that have taken place in an infinite number of universes. String theorists assert that our universe is one of billions and billions of universes—10500 to be more or less exact.[6]

In the 10500 universes of string theory or in the infinite number of universes of eternal inflation, physical properties are assumed to occur by chance, so that a universe like ours fine-tuned for life is bound to appear. In this way, chance replaces God. Furthermore, string theorists and cosmologists agree that we are trapped forever in our own Big Bang, and presumably no observational evidence can ever confirm the existence of other universes, and thus proponents of the multiverse violate the dictum that a physical theory must be open to being falsifiable.

In our biofriendly universe, chance and necessity gave birth to a self-replicating molecule. After another half billion years, the common ancestor to all life on Earth existed. From then on, natural selection coupled with the laws of physics and chemistry operated on the common ancestor and its descendants to produce an incredible diversity of complex organisms over the course of time: simple cells, photosynthetic organisms, complex cells, multicellular life, simple animals, arthropods (ancestors of insects, arachnids, and crustaceans), complex animals, fish and proto-amphibians, land plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, flowering plants, and proto-humans. Modern humans appeared in east Africa 200,000 years ago.

Like all stories, The Grand Narrative of Science achieves comprehensiveness by ignoring the obvious. The evolution of tiny bits of matter cannot produce an organism that has the perception of the color red. Carl von Weizsäcker, a physicist, points out that matter alone cannot explain how we see: “Light of 6,000 Å wavelength reaches my eye. From the retina, a chemico‑electrical stimulus passes through the optical nerve into the brain where it sets off another stimulus of certain motor nerves, and out of my mouth come the words: The apple is red. Nowhere in this description of the process, complete though it is, has any mention been made that I have had the color perception red. Of sense perception, nothing was said.”[7] And, of course, the same argument holds for the sound of middle C, the smell of a rose, the taste of chili, and the feel of cashmere.

Mechanical, chemical, and electrical changes in the brain are not thoughts, desires, and emotions. The toolbox of physical science is limited to air pressure, chemical changes, electrical impulses in nerves, brain cell activity, and other measurable properties of matter. Science is mute about the interior life of a human being, and the reason is obvious: Perceptions, emotions, and thoughts cannot be touched, smelled, tasted, heard, or seen, and thus are nonmaterial.

Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran acknowledges that explaining perception in terms of brain function alone is an impasse for neuroscience: “No matter how detailed and accurate [the] outside-objective description of color cognition might be, it has a gaping hole at its center because it leaves out” the experience of redness and all other perceptions.[8] He laments that the impasse results from a limit of present-day science: “Perhaps, science will eventually stumble on some unexpected method or framework for dealing with qualia—the immediate experiential perception of sensation, such as the redness of red or the pungency of curry—empirically and rationally, but such advances could easily be as remote from our present-day grasp as molecular genetics was to those living in the Middle Ages.”[9]

For tens of thousands of years, humans lived in the dark cave of superstition, fearful of their imaged gods, and threatened to extinction by periodic famines, infectious diseases, and deadly plagues. “Continual fear and violent death [made] the life of [a human] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”[10]

With the advent of the scientific revolution initiated by Copernicus, Bacon, Galileo, and Newton, humankind began to command nature to improve its fortunes. The “real business and fortunes of the human race” depend upon “those twin objects, human knowledge and human power;” genuine knowledge gives power to command nature “for the benefit and use of life.”[11] The three great waves of modern technology—the steam engine, the electric generator, and the microchip—transformed the natural world to serve humankind, resulting in a new era on Earth, the Anthropocene, the ascendancy of Homo sapiens.

In the twenty-first century, the “ever accelerating progress of technology” means humans are “approaching some essential Singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them” cannot continue.[12] “Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.”[13] The explosive increase in computing power will produce superintelligence that transcends the “limitations of our biological bodies and brains.”[14]

Furthermore, molecular nanotechnology and genetic engineering will radically change human life. Death is now a technical problem that scientists can solve, and soon, they will have the technology to make themselves and others immortal. The last days of death are imminent.[15]

After a long, arduous ascent, Homo sapiens becomes Homo deus, fulfilling a desire long hidden in the human heart—to become God.

Oddly, the Singularity and the presumed apotheosis of Homo sapiens brings up back to the Christian narrative.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the Garden?”’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the Garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.”[16]

Eve ate the forbidden fruit because she wanted to be like God. She knew that Adam not only loved her but also loved God, for he was absent from her when he walked in the Garden in the cool of the day with God. Eve desired to have all of Adam’s love; she wanted no one to exist for Adam outside of her, and believed that if she became like God, then she would be the sole recipient of all Adam’s love.

Adam, too, desired to be like God. He wanted Eve to love him, nay, to worship him, as if he were the Lord of Creation. Adam wanted Eve to glorify him, to become the Lord God for her.

The Fall of Man was caused by misdirected love, not sex. Both Adam and Eve desired to be loved as if they were the center of all existence. An exclusive self-love separated Adam and Eve from God, and ultimately from each other.

Storytelling

We take as our guide for the art of storytelling the eminent novelist E. M. Forster. He distinguishes story from plot: “A story is a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence…. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality.”[17] Forster gives a beautiful illusion of the difference between story and plot: “‘The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot.”[18] In a plot, the time sequence is preserved, but overshadowed by causality. If the death of the queen happens in a story, we ask “What next?”; if the death occurs in a plot, we ask “Why?”

In the Grand Narrative of Science, “the universe began with a Big Bang, followed by three early epochs” is a story, and not of much interest to either Forster or us. “The universe, including all aspects of human life, is the result of the interactions of little bits of matter” is the plot of the Grand Narrative, because that simple statement is the principle of causation, always present for scientists and of main interest to us and to most laypersons.

The narratives of science and Christianity are obviously not novels, nor works of fiction, for both claim to tell the true story of humankind—where we came from, what we are, and where we are going. To determine if either of these narratives is true, we must assess the plot.

We have already seen that the plot of the Grand Narrative is false: the interaction of tiny bits of matter—neurons—cannot explain the basic aspects of human life—we perceive, feel, and think. Brain function alone cannot explain our experience of the impersonal, stark beauty of mathematics and physics, or of the pungency of Stilton cheese, the softness of cashmere, the dance of cherry blossoms, the smell of the ocean salt air, the wonder and mystery of nature, or of the poetry, drama, and music that touch the transcendent.

The subplots of the Grand Narrative of Science stem from the main plot.

One notable subplot, Newtonian physics, proved true: an apple falling to the ground, the flow of water over a dam, and the motion of the moon and the Earth are all explained in terms of how little pieces of apple, earth, water, and moon move and attract each other. Psychologists, biologists, and neuroscientists hope to extend the success of Newtonian physics to their disciples; however, living organisms do not fit into the storytelling of Newtonian physics. We have already seen that the interactions of neurons cannot explain perceiving, feeling, and thinking.

Just to give one more example of the failure of the Grand Narrative to capture reality. A fundamental assumption of evolutionary psychology is that our “stone age mind” was “designed by natural selection to solve problems that our ancestors faced during our species’ evolutionary history.”[19] No paleoanthropologist knows in detail how ancestors lived in Africa two million years ago. The fossils of our ancient ancestors do not record the different activities of males and females, or the roles of reason, religion, music, dance, or the other central aspects of human life. Consequently, the storytelling of evolutionary psychology invokes imaginary humans, whose presumed way of life no observational evidence can confirm, and therefore violates a fundamental tenet of science—scientific truth rests upon experiment and observation.

Paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould ridicules the speculative search for reasons why a behavior that harms us now once had an adaptive purpose. Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, two of the guiding lights of evolutionary psychology, suggest that “a taste for sweet may have been adaptive in ancestral environments where vitamin-rich fruit was scarce, but it can generate maladaptive behavior in a modern environment flush with fast-food restaurants.”[20] Gould ranks as “pure guess work in the cocktail party mode” the story that the sweet tooth in humans that leads to unhealthy obesity today resulted from an environment millions of years ago in which fruit existed but candy did not.[21]

To assess the storytelling of Christianity, believers and non-believers, alike, tend to focus on the story, not the plot. Thomas Aquinas accepted without question the truth of the story of Adam and Eve, but then had to explain why no traveler in his day had stumbled upon the Garden of Eden: The location of Paradise on Earth was “shut off from the habitable world by mountains, or seas, or some torrid region, which cannot be crossed; and so people who have written about topography make no mention of it.”[22] In our day, archaeologists and paleontologists have not uncovered remnants of the Garden of Eden, and an extensive use of Google Earth does not reveal where the first parents of the human race lived.

The first Church Fathers did not read the Bible as a record of historical facts. Origen (c. 184-c. 253), commonly seen as one of the most brilliant theologians of the early Church and considered by Pope Benedict XVI as “a crucial figure to the whole development of Christian thought,”[23] wrote that Genesis included events that “did not actually occur.” He forcefully rejected a literal reading of the Garden of Eden Story: “Who is so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a human gardener, planted trees in Paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, that is, a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in Paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it.”[24]

We post-moderns are forced to abandon the literal reading of mythical stories that explain the present in terms of an imaginary past, whether those stories come from evolutionary psychology or Christianity. We must give up the hubris that we know everything about who we are; our pre-historic past is shrouded in mystery. Consequently, we are forced to shift from the story of Genesis to the plot. That once upon a time, the parents of the human race were perfect but fell because a snake tempted the woman is part of the story of Christianity, not the fundamental plot that drives the storytelling.

As we have seen in our commentary on the Grand Narrative of Science, the plot of the Adam and Eve story is that the human being is flawed. Our exalted self-love excludes the love of God and others, and as a result, each human being acts as if he or she were the center of all creation.

Our flawed nature is empirically verifiable. Walk onto a used car lot, work as a lawyer in civil litigation, or administer academics in a small college, and you will immediately grasp that egoism, self-interest, and the blindness to the happiness of others directs human life. Selfish desire, “me” and “mine,” ill-will, conceit, and pride cause conflicts between individuals and wars between Nation-States. Only Pollyannas cannot see the flawed nature of the human being. All others, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, and nihilists, must admit that the plot of the Adam and Eve narrative is true.

Jesus is obviously the central character in the storytelling of Christianity. Mysteriously, he walked among the Galileans, “doing good,” “healing every disease and every infirmity,”[25] and teaching previously hidden truths about God and man to the poor, the forgotten, and the sinful. Nearly one-fifth of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry is devoted to his healing of physical and mental illness. “Except for a discussion of miracles in general, the attention devoted to the healing ministry of Jesus is far greater than that devoted to any one kind of experience.”[26]

To ask whether the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, the blind beggar Bartimaeus at Jericho, or the ten lepers between Samaria and Galilee really happened is to focus on the story, not the plot.[27][*] These stories call attention to the real mission of Jesus, which was not the healing of thirty or forty people suffering from physical or mental aliments in the Near East, but to heal the flawed nature of the human being—forever. This mission is the central plot of the storytelling of Christianity.

To repair this flaw in humanity, Jesus introduced a new understanding of love, agápē, as the apex of love that had no counterpart in the ancient world. In Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, love is divided into four kinds, storgē, philía, erōs, and agápē.[28] Storgē, often called familial love, is a natural affection that arises from the familiarity of persons, such as two women who daily sit next to each other on a commuter bus. The most intense form of storgē is that of a parent for an offspring; storgē, however, is so broad that it even refers to the relationship between pets and their owners. Philía usually translated as friendship, although the meaning of the Greek word is wider and can include the bond that holds together a polis, an organization, and even a buyer and a seller in the marketplace. Erōs is an intense desire to be joined to another person, to beauty, to truth, or to any good outside of oneself. In essence, erōs is the natural desire for full existence that rests on self-love. Agápē is the selfless love for others that cannot be earned and excludes no one. When Jesus commands us to “love one another; even as I have loved you,”[29] he directs us to love one another without desire of reward.

The three distinguishing marks of agápē are disinterestedness, tranquility, and humility. When disinterested, a person does not seek advantage or fear loss for himself. With an absence of greed and anxiety, a person calmly assesses a situation and acts for the good of others, not to glorify his ego, which is of no importance. Freed from subjective distortions, a person sees himself exactly for what he is, neither more nor less; such self-awareness is humility.

In Modernity, under the sway of capitalism, where in the marketplace, no one acts for the sake of another, love is often see as an economic transaction. Milton Friedman, the modern guru of the free market, declares, “In all systems, whether you call them socialism, capitalism, or anything else, people act from self-interest. The citizens of Russia act from self-interest in the same way that the citizens of the United States do.”[30] Ayn Rand, a staunch advocate of capitalism, claimed in her book The Virtue of Selfishness, that an individual who pursues another’s good “has nothing to gain from it, he can only lose; self-inflicted loss, self-inflicted pain and the gray, debilitating pall of an incomprehensible duty is all that he can expect. He may hope that others might occasionally sacrifice themselves for his benefit, as he grudgingly sacrifices himself for theirs, but he knows that the relationship will bring mutual resentment, not pleasure.”[31] An individual can at best offer an exchange to another motivated by self-interest, expecting something in return, such as pleasure, devotion, money, or power. Underlying this view is the opinion that an individual barely holds on to life, needing food, shelter, clothing, and other goods that are easily lost. An individual hopes to take much and to give little in return; his existence is beggarly. No one in his right mind gives anything freely without getting something more valuable in return.

Jesus the Healer forcefully opposes what we above all want. Most of us pass through three stages in growth and development. First as infants and then as young persons, we mainly desire the delights of the flesh, the pleasures that come from delicious food, good sex, warm baths, and restful sleep. Later in life, when the hedonism in us weakens, we desire wealth that makes possible an easy and comfortable life where backbreaking or tedious labor is replaced by entertainment 24/7. In our middle years, we wish to be honored for our achievements; some of us seek positions of authority that make us feel good about ourselves, so that we can delight in self-love.

Jesus challenges these three common ends of life: delights of the flesh, the pleasures afforded by wealth, and the self-love honor conveys. By telling us “I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,”[32] “Sell what you possess and give to the poor,”[33] and “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant to all,”[34] Jesus is attempting to wean us infants from the great teat of the world, so we will grow into spiritual beings, who love the other for the sake of the other. Jesus shows us how to re-order our loves: flesh, wealth, and honor are ultimately of no value, only the egoless love of others matters. We, of course, resist such a re-ordering, and even claim it is impossible, believing that the loss of wealth and the acceptance of dishonor will threaten our very existence—and they will! We can only save our life by losing it. The birth of the spiritual person occurs with the death of the self-centered ego.

Jesus admonishes us to do good to others, even to our enemies, and not to expect anything in return. If we expect a return for a good act, then we are acting not for the good of the other but for our own good. I may loan money to my neighbor for the treatment of his unanticipated medical problem, because when indebted to me I can freely pick his brain for my business operation. In this case, and in others, the fundamental reality of my life is that the entire world should be ordered to fulfilling my desires. I cannot see anything beyond myself; in effect, I am an infant sucking on the great teat of the world, and, of course, I will suffer repeated disappointments, then bawl and bawl, perhaps crying myself eventually into the grave.

So far, the narrative arc of the storytelling of Christianity is unassailable. (The remaining part of the arc—the Incarnation and the Resurrection—requires faith, and thus falls outside the scope of this essay.) Given the truth that the ills of the world, such as hatred, conflict, and poverty, stem from egoistic love—salvation, not in the sense of eternal life—must be egoless love, a bitter medicine, whose healing power yields communal concord.

For Christians, love without the desire for reward is how God loves us. If we love the way He does, we will enter into genuine friendship with Him; we will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, even though we can never be friends with them. God loves all persons, for “He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rains on the just and on the unjust.”[35] By loving the way God does, we “become partakers of the divine nature.”[36] Many Church Fathers were fond of telling their brethren, “God became man, so man might become God.” The aim of human life is union with God and deification.

The principal way Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, and nihilists—all of us —fashion coherent wholes out of our desires, achievements, losses, and feelings for others is through a personal narrative, which is the universal way we organize our experiences and interpret the world.[37] From this perspective, the human being is a storytelling animal. In good storytelling, the end of the story is the most important part, but with the Death of God and the demise of the New Stories, we post-moderns share no ultimate goal for our lives; our personal stories lack an end, a purpose, and each one of our lives adds up to no more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,”[38] unless we accept the gift offered to us—“love one another; even as I have loved you.”[39]

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.

Endnotes

[*] Each of the healing stories has a plot of its own. Like Bartimaeus, we need to have our eyes opened to the truth, so we will follow Jesus to his death and resurrection.

[1] The story of the madman here is paraphrased from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, 1974), section 125, pp. 181-182.

[2] A partial, conservative catalogue of the political murders of the twentieth century is mind-boggling, unbelievable, but sadly undeniable. Deaths: World War I (military only): 9,700,000; Russian Revolution and Civil War: 9,000,000; forced col­lectivization: 3,000,000 Ukrainian peasants; Russian gulag: 1,000,000 political prisoners; Spanish Civil War: 1,200,000; World War II (military and civilian): 51,000,000; Nazi camps: 6,000,000 Jews and 6,000,000 Slavs, Gypsies, and political prisoners; Japanese Rape of Nanking: 300,000 Chinese; Allied bombing of Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, and Dresden: 500,000 German civilians; Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 140,000 Japanese civilians; Vietnam War (military and civilian): 5,000,000; Chinese Great Leap Forward: 30,000,000. These numbers are low estimates. For the difficulty of estimating mass political murders see Lewis M. Simons, “Genocide and the Science of Proof,” National Geographic Magazine (January 2006): 28-35 and Timothy Snyder, “Holocaust: The Ignored Reality,” The New York Review of Books (July 16, 2009).

[3] H. Allen Orr, “Awaiting a New Darwin,” The New York Review of Books, 60, No. 2 (February 7, 2013).

[4] Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of The Origin of The Universe (New York: Basic Books, 1977), p. 154.

[5] John A. Wheeler, “Genesis and Observership,” in Foundational Problems in the Special Sciences, ed. Robert E. Butts and Jaakko Hintikka (Dor­drecht, Holland: Reidel, 1977), p. 18.

[6] See Leonard Susskind, Interview, Amanda Gefter, “Is string theory in trouble?”, New Scientist (17 December 2005). Also see Steven Weinberg, “Living in the Multiverse.”

[7] C.F. von Weizsäcker, The History of Nature, trans. Fred D. Wieck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), pp. 142‑43.

[8] V.S. Ramachandran, The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human (New York: Norton, 2011), p. 248.

[9] Ibid., p. 249. Ramachandran’s definition of qualia is on page 248 and is incorporated in this quotation.

[10] Thomas Hobbs, Leviathan with selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668, ed. Edwin Curley (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1994), Part I, Ch 13, p. 76.

[11] Francis Bacon, The New Organon and Related Writings (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960 [1620]), pp. 29, 15.

[12] John von Neumann, quoted by Stanislaw Ulam, “Tribute to John von Neumann, 1903-1957,” Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 64 (May 1958).

[13] Vernor Vinge, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.”

[14] Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), p. 9.

[15] See Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (New York: HarperCollins, 2017), pp. 21-22.

[16] Genesis 3:1-6. All Biblical quotations are from the RSV.

[17] E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (New York: Mariner Books, 1956), pp. 30, 86.

[18] Ibid., p. 86.

[19] Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, “Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer.”

[20] Ibid.

[21] Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution: The Pleasures of Pluralism,” The New York Review of Books, 44, No. 11 (June 26, 1997).

[22] Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Question 102, Reply to Objection 3.

[23] Pope Benedict XVI, Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine, trans. L’Osservatore Romano (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2017), p. 32.

[24] Origen, De Principiis, Bk. IV, Paragraph 16. Our text combines the translations from the Greek and Latin versions of De Principiis.

[25] Acts 10:38; Matthew 9:35.

[26] Gary Wiens, “The Healing Ministry of Jesus,” International House of Prayer Northwest, p. 2.

[27] Matt. 9:2-8, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 17:11-19.

[28] For a detailed discussion, see C.S. Lewis, Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960).

[29] John 13:34. `

[30] Milton Friedman, “Is Capitalism Humane?”, a talk filmed at Cornell University in 1978.

[31] Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964), p. ix.

[32] Matt. 5. 28.

[33] Matt. 19.21.

[34] Mark 9.35.

[35] Matthew 5:45.

[36] 2 Peter 1:3, 4.

[37] See George Stanciu, “Who Are We? The Mystery of ‘The Self.’”

[38] Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, line 30.

[39] John 13:34.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
3 replies to this post
  1. I cannot even begin to over think your essay, Dr. Stanciu, but this is the image that came to me:

    “Daddy, why…why, Daddy, why?
    “My child, have you not heard…have you not read…learn of me and you will have life. Because…I said so.”

  2. Thoughts of God are both terrifying and wonderful There is no way our puny brains can imagine his power.
    They are limited to self preservation here now and the immediate future.
    I find Marcus Aurelius helpful on many issues.
    When he states ” We are merely a Soul carrying a corpse” it boils down to what is essential .
    That is, it is in our interest to make and ensure our Soul is acceptable to God. That requires Jesus’ help and intervention..

    • I find the need to address the quote of Marcus Aurelius, “We are merely a Soul carrying a corpse”, to be an example of false teaching that we are warned of repeatedly within God’s Word. Well, no, my body is alive, flesh and blood, through which the very breath of life continues to flow as I believe yours is too.

      God, assumed this flesh and blood that he created in the beginning into himself when he overcame the virgin through the Holy Spirit and became man, Christ Jesus, the savior promised to Adam and Eve to crush the serpent’s head. The Promised Seed of a woman, that no other man was able to do. Even though he died on the cross and became a corpse, He became alive again to a new life that he in turn promises to give to all who are his own; a living hope that we will one day “see” with our own eyes.

Please leave a thoughtful, civil, and constructive comment: