I grew up on Warner Bros. cartoons.
I once heard that the older ones weren’t actually created as entertainment for children, but as shorts to precede feature films.
I remember one bit in particular that evaded me as a child. At one point, Elmer Fudd forced Bugs at gun point out to the end of a limb and then sawed off the limb. Once it was cut through, the limb remained aloft and the tree crashed to the ground with Elmer in it. Then, Bugs broke the fourth wall to say, “I know this defies the law of gravity, but I never studied law.”
The six-year-old me knew that the law of gravity and jurisprudence differed from one another, but I couldn’t fully appreciate the humor. I get it now. Through this shtick the geniuses at Warner Bros. invited their audience to laugh at human arrogance. For all of the time, money, and energy our species spends on legislation and litigation, not a bit of it has an ounce of power to affect actual events. We simply do not have that kind of authority.
What if we found evidence of legislated reality? What would be the implications of discovering that nature obeyed a seemingly prescribed limit?
Maybe you’ve heard that time slows and then stops the closer one gets to the speed of light. In a recent study I did, I was surprised to discover why that happens: Speed is a function of space over time. The speed of light is a constant in the universe. When a vessel nears the speed of light, the light inside has the potential to double that speed as it is carried along in the vessel. To ensure that the constant remains constant, time actually dialates. Since light can’t travel faster than 186000 miles/second, the second expands to enforce the speed limit. Clear as mud? Here’s a video to make it clearer.
So, I wonder about that. Why would impersonal universal forces obey a speed limit? Could it be that someone with authority over nature set that limit and prohibits it from being exceeded?
One of the elders of our church used to work for Social Security. The other day he told me about how Social Security absorbed the administration of state-run disability benefits. To streamline the process, they sought to automate the system through the use of computers. An outside vendor was brought in to pitch a system which could handle the massive load. The only problem was that the vendor didn’t actually have the technology they sold. The demo unit they brought to their presentations was nothing but a metal box equipped with a very impressing array of buttons and flashing lights. The vendor believed that if they could just get the money from Social Security first, they would be able to produce the promised equipment. The decision makers at Social Security had little knowledge of computer systems but didn’t want to admit this fact so they went with the vendor. This interplay between pride and deception brings to mind the old fable of the “Emperor’s New Clothes.” Except in this case more was at stake than a leader’s public image. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money was lost through the debacle.
This story makes me think of the various worldviews that exist. So many promise much but deliver little. When people decide what to believe about reality (and it is a decision), perhaps they should consider a worldview that has proven effective. Check out these observations made about Christianity by an economist raised in an atheist state.
I’m not saying we should choose a belief system simply because it works. I’m saying that if it works when nothing else does, perhaps a greater Mind was indeed behind its inception.
So I’ve coined a new saying, “When you’re right, you’re Nathan.” Just kidding. But how do we hold to truth without coming off as arrogant or judgmental? Acts 17-18 holds an important message for Christ followers in this regard.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the reasons that people have for disbelieving God or for questioning his nature. I myself have struggled and continue to struggle with doubts. In fact, I struggle to believe those who say that they have not struggled with doubts. It’s hard to believe in God. Bad things happen. Prayers go unanswered. Then there are the contradictions between the biblical narrative and scientific discoveries. Not to mention contradictions between the biblical narrative and the biblical narrative. Finally, and most devastatingly, there are the walking contradictions, those who claim to follow Christ yet do violence to his name through their behavior.
We’ve all encountered contradictions in various forms. What we do with them will shape our souls and the course of our lives. By spending some time recently reading literature from unbelievers, I have discovered a pattern in the way they tend to process these contradictions. Their thinking tends to follow an “if, then” heuristic. For instance, “If God is all-powerful and completely good, then why is there suffering?” That’s a great question to ask as are many others posed by those who do not believe in God. It’s a logical question. I respect people who ask good questions and I feel indebted to them for helping to take my thinking to a higher level. I don’t want a faith which is untested or based on assumption.
Having said that, I want to challenge the atheistic challenge by suggesting that drawing conclusions from the “if, then” heuristic presupposes that all variables are known. For instance, a child whose parents take him to get a shot might question the love of his parents for him since he has built a heuristic that says, “If you love me, then you won’t hurt me.” We can easily see that while for this child the dilemma is very real, the contradiction exists only in his faulty perception of reality. Here is another example which I found in Scripture the other day: “The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (Luke 23:36-37) Roman soldiers standing at the foot of the cross could not possibly understand how or why a king would submit to crucifixion. They possessed a heuristic which said, “If you have power, then you will use it in your best interest.” Looking back at this event through the lens of redemption, we can easily see that not only did the cross not challenge Jesus’ identity as the Christ, it validated it. So, there was more to be understood and the soldiers reached a conclusion too early.
Perhaps in the debate over the existence of God, some humility is called for. Perhaps at the beginning, we should all acknowledge that there is much we do not know. I’d like to challenge myself and anyone else who will accept it, to allow contradictions to elicit further discovery rather than premature conclusions. After all, the first definition for “heuristic” in Dictionary.com is, “serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of further investigation.”