Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Picking Up Dimes

In Douglas Wilson's introduction to the book Is Christianity Good For the World: A Debate, Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson, Wilson has this to say.

God knew that we were going to need to pick up dimes, and so He gave us fingernails. He knew that twilights displayed in blue, apricot, and battle gray would be entirely astonishing and beyond us, and so He gave us eyes that can see in color. He could have made all food quite nourishing, but which tasted like wadded up newspaper soaked in machine oil. Instead He gave us the tastes of watermelon, pecans, oatmeal stout, buttered corn, apples, fresh bread, grilled sirloin, and 25-year-old scotch. And He of course knew that we were going to need to thank Him and so He gave us hearts and minds.
The issue of thanksgiving is really central to the whole debate about the existence of God. On the one hand, if there is no God, there is no need to thank anyone. We are here as the result of a long chain of impersonal processes, grinding their way down to our brief moment in time. If there is a God, then every breath, every moment, every sight and sound, is a sheer unadulterated gift. And, as our mothers taught us, when someone gives you presents like this, the only appropriate response is to thank them.

Anyone who has read a few postings on this blog site will likely know me well enough to know that I don’t think these words by Douglas Wilson are the final word on the existence of God. It is an awesome way of describing the fitness of humans for this planet on which we live; but of course my atheist friends will readily point out that there are other explanations. One can argue that the nature of this planet defined that the fittest beings for existence on this planet would have to develop colour vision that could distinguish bushes from predators crouched in the bushes. Therefore, those with colour vision survived. You could argue that we evolved a set of taste-buds on which food that is good for our bodies and good energy for storing up fat, tastes good to us. Bad food that is poisonous or unhealthy could taste like "wadded up newspaper soaked in machine oil." But I do like an explanation that leaves room for a God who simply loves his creation and wants to give good gifts to human and beast. And the explanation that God allowed us to evolve this way, and indeed, saw that we would evolve this way, also leaves room for a mechanism of fitness to guide the process of how we became what we became.

A God who exists is also a great recipient for our thanksgiving. I often feel sorry for people at the holiday season known as Thanksgiving. Some celebrate the earlier Canadian Thanksgiving in October; others, the later American Thanksgiving in November. To whom does the atheist turn to give thanks? As Wilson says, “If there is no God, there is no need to thank anyone?” Oh sure, you could thank your forefathers and foremothers for outrunning the predators so that they survived long enough to reproduce and ultimately brought you into this world. But that seems rather hollow when really the only thing we can say about our ancestors is that they were the previous sac of bio-chemicals that managed to achieve rational thought.

I am glad to have a God whom I can praise and thank. It is an appropriate response for this amazing planet on which we live.

2 comments:

  1. Douglas Wilson is putting the cart before the horse.

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  2. Or was God making horses long before carts were invented knowing that one day horses and carts would have a united purpose?

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