Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A decision that must of course be faced on a deeper level than the decision for or against reality

I have decided to post the next part of Hans Kung's argument of persuasion as to why it is even more than a merely rational choice to believe in God, belief in God makes the matter of making rational choices make sense, have significance and gives a reason for someone to believe that their rational choice is right and true.  It contains a radical contention that that choice to believe is far more compelling and significant a choice than even the most seemingly universally acknowledged truths of simple arithmetic.  I won't mention the story of how many pages it took Whitehead and Russell to logically prove that 1+1=2, though it's fun it's also trivial.

What Kung points out in these arguments is that the consequences of the choice made are the farthest things from trivial, they are consequential not only intellectually but psychologically and practically, as well.  Though those will impinge on the thinking and thoughtful more than those who operate on the level of blog-thread, comment-tread invective and fashion and social bonding.  I'll have more about this on the other end of the storm.

God - a matter of trust

The alternatives have become clear.  Both affirmation and denial of God are possible. Are we not therefore faced with a stalemate, with indecision? 

It is just at this point that we find the knot which is decisive for the solution of the question of the existence of God, a solution we have prepared in extensive discussions on the natural theology of Vatican I, on the dialectical theology of Barth and Bultmann and Kant's theology of moral postulates.  We can briefly recapitulate here:

-  If God is, he is the answer to the radical uncertainty of reality.

-  The fact that God is, can be assumed not strictly in virtue of a proof or indication of pure reason (natural theology), not unconditionally in virtue of a moral postulate of practical reason (Kant), not exclusively in virtue of the biblical testimony (dialectical theology),  but only in a confidence rooted in reality itself.

Thus trusting commitment to an ultimate ground, support and meaning of reality 

- and not only the commitment to the Christian God  - is itself rightly designated in general usage as "belief" in God, as "faith in God." 

Corresponding to "fundamental trust," we might also speak in a general way of "trust in God," if this term were not too theologically and emotionally charged.  In order not to permit the term to fall completely out of use of the analogy between "fundamental trust" and "trust in God."  At the same time, it is obviously a question of genuine belief, albeit in a wide sense, in as much as such a belief must not necessarily be prompted by the Christian proclamation but is possible also for non-Christians (Jews, Muslims, Hindus and so on).  People who profess such a belief - whether Christians or non-Christians - are rightly described as believers in God."  On the other hand, atheism in so far as it is a refusal to trust in God is, again, quite rightly described in general usage as "unbelief."

It has been shown therefore that man cannot evade a free, although not arbitrary, decision, not only in regard to reality as such but also in regard to a primal ground, primal support, and primal goal of reality.  Since reality and its primal ground, primal support and primal goal are not imposed on us with conclusive evidence, there remains scope for man's freedom.  Man must decide without intellectual constraint but also without rational proof.  Both atheism and belief in God are therefore ventures, they are also risks.  The critique of the proofs of God itself shows that belief in God has the character of a decision and - conversely - a decision for God that has the character of belief. 

The question of God therefore involves a decision that must of course be faced on a deeper level than the decision - necessary in view of nihilism - for or against reality as such.  As soon as the individual becomes aware of this ultimate depth and the question arises, the decision becomes unavoidable.  As with fundamental trust, so, too, with the question of God, not to choose is in fact a choice; the person has chosen not to choose.  To abstain from voting in a vote of confidence in regard to the question of God means a refusal of confidence, a vote of mistrust. If at this point a person does not -at least factually - affirm God, he denies him. 

Yet unfortunately the "depth" (or "height") of a truth and the certainty with which it is accepted by man are in inverse ratio.  The more banal the truth ("truism," "platitude") the greater the certainty.  The more significant the truth (for instance aesthetic, moral and religious truth by comparison with arithmetical) the slighter the certainty.  For the "deeper" the truth is for me, the more must I lay myself open to it, inwardly prepare myself, attune myself to it intellectually, voluntarily, emotionally, in order to reach that genuine "certainty" which is somewhat different from assured "security."  A deep truth for me outwardly uncertain, menaced by doubts, which presupposes a generous commitment on my part, can possess much more cognitive value than a certain or even "absolutely certain" - banal truth (2+2=4).

As anyone with a functioning mind can see, Kung's arguments here are at such a higher level than those of, for example, Richard Dawkins, that to choose to be swayed by Dawkins can only be done on the basis of ignorance more substantial and sophisticated arguments or on an emotional basis too shallow to be touched by argument.  You don't have to accept them but if you are prepared to think them through and have the emotional maturity to accept that their advantaging of a view that reality is real makes accepting the belief in God not only legitimate but highly intellectually principled.

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