Man and Our Awesome God
Man may have great difficulty accepting that an infinite God could have such power, wisdom and yet be loving, kind and concerned with the seemingly small details of one "man," himself, herself, or one patient, one orphan, one child. Man projects his own self-centeredness and lack of caring for others upon God, imagining Him in his own image.
If man wishes to simply go after his own plans, desires, and ambitions, having a God existing that has to be reckoned with interferes with these things. At the most basic level, it comes down to whether man wishes to fulfill his own will without listening to any other person, let alone God, or to follow God's will for his life. Accepting that God really exists would mean man has to completely re-evaluate what he is doing, how he is living, why he does anything at all.
When we use the word "proud," we mean two different things. There is that arrogant self-pride ("proud man") that is defiant toward God and rebels against any criticism directed toward ourselves, that is easily offended, that seeks to rule over others and never bend in humility. There is also the natural healthy sort of pride one takes in doing one's work well, creating a beautiful product or providing a service that helps others in their lives. They are worlds apart in meaning, because a humble person can have a healthy sense of pride in his work, and this should be encouraged, while the arrogant self-pride involves a poisonous refusal to be shaped by life and by God so that we may truly honor God in how we live and in so doing, live well.
The gift of life is something we shape by how we go about living, what we choose to do during our lives, and why we choose what we choose. These are the matters that determine what kind of man (man, woman or child) we shall be and are. We do have the free will from the beginning of our lives to be how we wish to be and to be what we choose to be. It is not so much what exact role we play in our community and society that makes us the man we are, but rather how and why we behave the way we do during our life.
Man, proud man, does not really wish to submit to anyone else's will. He also wishes to believe that he can do all things on his own, that he is the "captain of his own ship," that whatever he accomplishes is his to "own," his to be proud of, and that he owes no debt to any other, let alone God. He glories in his wealth, power, status, enjoyments and knowledge, and desires that others praise him for all of these. In a way, he wishes that others "worship" him in spirit, if not in actuality. Of course, many emperors in history have actually demanded that their subjects worship them as "god," including the pharaohs of Egypt, the caesars of Rome, even Adolf Hitler, the "Fuhrer" or "lord" of the National Socialist ("Nazi") Third Reich of Germany during World War II.
In health care, the sciences and technology, even industry of all sorts, proud man wishes to believe that whatever he has created, produced or discovered is done completely on his own. He conveniently forgets that all men and women owe much of what they are to others, whether their mothers and fathers, their teachers, the physicians who helped heal them when they were very ill, the farmers who grew the food they ate, the carpenters and builders who built the houses that sheltered them or the laborers who produced the materials and goods they use in their work and in their daily lives.
No man, no woman, is a self-produced, self-existing being. Man, the "rational animal," will reflect and acknowledge that we are all dependent upon others who are also dependent upon others as well, if he is to be truly rational, unflinchingly basing his conclusions upon objective reality. The honest, truly rational man will rightly use his reason to correctly assess his own state in life, his own abilities and weaknesses, his dependencies and relationships. Truly rational man will acknowledge that everything he has, he ultimately owes in some way to others or to God Himself, and therefore, he will be humble.
Man applies the gifts and abilities he has been given by birth, upbringing, education or his community, and using his free will, makes his way through life, shaping himself into the man he chooses to be. How he applies himself, how he chooses to shape himself is most importantly who he has chosen to be as a man. Rational man will acknowledge that he is a complete individual who is also a part of the entire society, and is dependent upon that society for innumerable things.
Proud man doesn't wish to acknowledge these dependencies or realities, so he lies to himself about all of this, and lies to others when he asserts that he doesn't need anyone else, that he, and others like him, can do everything on his own, without God, without following the divine law that is given to us by God. Proud man denies God even exists, but always shows himself to be illogical and a coward before the Truth.
Proud man hides from the truth, cannot tolerate the idea that there is a moral law he must obey, and rebels against any limitation to his self-will and the actions that arise from it. Proud man hides from his own mortality, acting as if he will live forever, pretending to himself that death does not stand there waiting at some point to swallow up this life of his. "Those things" he thinks, only apply to others, but not him!
If he is a scientist, inventor, physician or industry leader, he believes that everything he does is accomplished because he has great intelligence and ability, because he thought of it, and because he is the one, the unique human being able to do that great thing. He chooses not to think about his limitations or approaching death, however far away that might be in time.
When proud man awakens from sleep, if he has been unsuccessful in achieving his desires within this world, he angrily tells himself, "I deserve better," or "if only they understood!" If he has achieved some of his desires in this world, he thinks to himself something along the lines of: "how great I am," or "I'm glad that I'm not like those others." He smiles smugly as he prepares for the day and thinks of the wonderful things he will accomplish. All of us have some of this self-pride within us, though we may not notice it until we seek to live a better life, a more blessed life in harmony with God's will.
This self-pride1 is difficult to see within ourselves and is like an onion in that it is layered. When we see some of it and then work to remove it, we find that it exists in another way underneath. Like the Hydra slain by Hercules, when one "head" is cut off, it reappears perhaps with two more "heads." It's impossible to kill by our own effort alone. This self-pride can only be truly overcome by God's grace, and we can only fully accept His grace when we ultimately learn to not trust to our own understanding totally, as we may deceive ourselves about this self-pride, and so, go astray. When we rely fully on Him, when we are ready to lose our life for His sake, then we open to His grace and that self-pride can be removed.
Proud man trusts to himself, not God. He may work very hard to accomplish the tasks he has set for himself. He may apply his mind to complex problems of all sorts, but when an idea occurs to him "out of the blue," he takes personal credit for that saying that he had an "insight," and suddenly "discovered" whatever it is, whether how to understand something, create something, solve some problem or even help to heal a patient.
Yet, does a man truly accomplish these things utterly on his own? without God? without the help of others who have come before? without the benefit of his genetic makeup inherited from his parents and ancestors, who ultimately received them from God? When genetic engineers manipulate genes and insert them into microbes, oocytes, sperms or even already existing embryos of various species, have they truly created life and all aspects of that life from nothing, or simply used the most basic components already there?
Have they, and we, not benefited from others' throughout our lives? Haven't we consulted with others or benefited from the pool of knowledge that arises from all those scientists, engineers, thinkers and inventors who have come before? ... from our teachers who helped us reach the position where we were: capable of making that leap in understanding, able to have that insight, knowledgeable enough to create that new invention or process?
Yes, men and women have chosen to apply themselves, working with dedication to refine their understanding and abilities, and to achieve wonderful things, and man can take a healthy natural pride in that achievement, but man must always remember those who have helped him reach those heights of achievement, with humility.
If the physician's understanding of medicine and application of that understanding is solely the reason for healing, why can't a physician then predict which patient will successfully be healed and which patient will not be healed? Why is medicine not a "pure science," but also an "art?" Do the physician, nurse, and other health care workers really determine the results of their interventions, or do they work with the conditions given them, and hope for a good outcome? Is the patient's life before them, something that they totally control, or is it a life given to them to serve, a life that arises from God?
When a physician helps to heal a patient, does he himself make the patient's body, organs, tissues and cells respond to his interventions? How do we explain how one patient responds to treatment while another with exactly the same illness does not? Isn't it true that physicians try to heal some patients based upon their understanding, yet they fail? And isn't it true that physicians try to heal others, and the patients respond and become healthy? Is a patient's healing or a patient's failure to heal due to what the physician does alone? ... without any other cause? David writes:
While we know that "no man is an island unto himself," is a physician a "healer" unto himself? Certainly not! The patient's own body, mind and soul, as well as all that he is including his will to live, has much to do with whether his body responds to treatment. Ultimately it is the Lord who allows all our diseases to be healed by allowing the body's own power of healing to operate, assisted by the physician, nurse, and all other caregivers.
Physicians have often noted that some patients "give up" and any treatment given fails to bring healing. There is more to healing than applying a treatment, administering a medication, or making a biochemical reaction take place within the body. We are more than a physical being, and healing involves more than simply responding to what others may do.
If we honestly and objectively look at man, whatever his role in life, we see that he is absolutely not an "island unto himself," that he needs others to survive, to function and to thrive. If we honestly look at man and society, we see that even society is not wholly independent. We see that man and society depend upon all of Nature, a Nature created by God. Man uses the resources of the land, and he applies his abilities and talents to work with those resources to produce the goods necessary for him to survive and prosper. We see that both man and society thrive when they exist in harmony with certain principles arising out of man's common human nature or what can be called the Natural Law.
In medicine and health care, we say that the patient may be healed if the natural balance or homeostasis within the body is restored within certain normal ranges or boundaries, if the organs, tissues and cells of the body are functioning as they are "supposed" to function. But, we may then ask, "why is the 'normal' range what it is?" "from where does any organ get its purpose?" "why do tissues and cells function one way and not another?" Or, even with our modern understanding of genetic programming, "where does an individual's genetic programming come from?" ... originally? "Who was the original genetic programmer?" With all the wondrously complex and organized activity in the human body, "could all of this arise out of random chance occurrences?" "Where does all of this life, all of the universe come from, ultimately?"
Our Awesome God
The theory of the "Big Bang" as the origin of the universe explains nothing about what caused that Big Bang. Scientists have nothing to say about the First Cause, before any other causes they may know about. They do say that before the Big Bang, there was no time or space or matter or energy or physical laws. Well, what was there then? Nothing? Does that logically make sense to you? Scientists ignore the implications of their own research and conclusions.
What exists when there is no time or space or matter or energy or physical laws? Can everything that is, all matter and energy, come out of nothing? That cannot be. It is not logical at all. Even as they explain it, ... that all that is, all energy and matter suddenly sprang forth from one infinitesimally tiny "point," that did not take up any space (since space did not exist) "creating" the universe, is awe-inspiring, mind-boggling, something beyond our understanding. How do we explain that what they say was "nothing," suddenly became "everything that is" and manifested into such fantastic, beautiful, immense swirling galaxies, all obeying laws of gravity, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and so on?
How do we explain this picture of galaxies and galaxies, beyond imagination? Applying logic, we must conclude that Something truly Wonderful existed before the Big Bang as its Source or Cause. We could call that the First Cause of all that is, an Actuality, a Power, an existing Being that does not and did not need the universe to exist ... a Self-Existing Being, and just thinking about that immediately lets us know that It is beyond our imagination.
If we accept that there was no time and space before the Big Bang, then whatever "It" was that existed before is not something that can be studied by the scientific method, observing and measuring something. What That is that existed before time and space, before the Big Bang, is not a scientific question or proper topic of scientific investigation. Mathematicians, physicists and astronomers may attempt to describe it or explain it, using scientific or mathematical models, but can only point to it in different ways, and when they do, their ideas begin to resemble theology.
We can also ask, "does God exist?" If He does exist, what are you and I going to do about it? What does it mean for you and me that He exists? These are questions that confront each of us, you, me, and all of us as man. How we answer this question affects how we think about our own purpose in life, how we approach others around us and how we approach our work in serving others in this world. How we answer this question determines how we use reason to make choices regarding ourselves, what we do with our lives, how we relate to others and society.
There have been many theologians and philosophers who have argued for and against the existence of God, going back thousands of years all the way up to our present day. Whether we ourselves believe in God or not has to do with faith, but reason can provide logical explanations for or against His existence.2 That some will find ways to argue for His existence and that others will find ways to argue against His existence is a given, since men have freely chosen to accept or reject God, and to justify their position. The fault is not in logic, but in its application and the premises one accepts in reasoning about God.
God does not have to obey our limited conceptions of what we imagine must be or must not be. That we have difficulty imagining or comprehending Him does nothing to negate His Being that which He Is. However, we have been given a power to reason and we can use it to think about God and all that is.
The dear Lord told us that God has infinite and eternal Rulership, Power, and Glory ("... For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." [Matthew 6:13] That Being that is God, as King or Ruler of all, can will and make things, all things, or the universe, come into being. Just as a king can "decree" or will that something be done, and it is done, God can "will" and did will the universe into being. He can create, and then influence what is, if He wills to do so. He can do this, because He has that power, is that Power, and possesses glory, being of the nature of Glory, in infinite degree. We may not understand that, but that is why He is God, and we are but man.
Modern science does tell us that there was a Big Bang, that occurred in the past, initiating the beginning of time, space, energy and matter that we know as the universe, and beginning the relationships among all of these (time, space, energy and matter) that we know as the physical laws of the universe. That scientific evidence shows that from the very beginning, the universe was ordered or organized in a way that we know as "the laws of nature, physics, chemistry, astronomy, gravity, etc., is significant. Scientists tell us that the universe is not chaotically arranged or that everything occurs at random without predictability. In fact, the order and organization of the universe is the basis of scientific investigation.
With regard to the theorized "Big Bang," scientists say:
"Prior to the singularity, nothing existed, not space, time, matter, or energy - nothing. So where and in what did the singularity appear if not in space? We don't know. We don't know where it came from, why it's here, or even where it is. All we really know is that we are inside of it and at one time it didn't exist and neither did we. ["Big Bang Theory" from allaboutscience.org]
That scientists don't know what existed before the universe came into being, is exactly the point. When they say "nothing" existed, they mean nothing of limited matter, energy, space or time, but that is not the same as saying "nothing at all" existed. We could think of God as That Existing, Being, and out of His infinite potential, infinite power, and infinite Will, He created the universe, willing it into existence, that scientists talk about today as that "Big Bang."
We can think of God as One Being, Existing, beyond comprehension. That, some say, the universe could be explained without a God is refuted by science itself, since the Big Bang theory says the universe did not exist eternally, but originated in the past at a specific point, or "singularity." That which Is, Self-existing, ongoing, eternally, without time and space, is God. If we think of grammar, the verb, "to be" in its first person" intransitive form" without an object, amounts to: "I Am." Just, "I Am." When God refers to Himself, we see that He says, "I am." When we think about That, we think of Being beyond comprehension. We've heard this before.
When Moses saw God on Mount Sinai and asked Him to reveal His name, the dear Lord said, "I am that I am." [Exodus 3:14] Think about that for a while: a Being that exists, Self-exists, without qualification, without cause, without limitation, without beginning or end. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." [Revelation 1:8] and " I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." [Revelation 22:13]
We can look out at the universe, whether to the stars and galaxies, or to the simple Earth before us, and we see an enthralling beauty in Nature all around. The exquisite intelligent organization found in the nature of all things great and small testifies to the existence of an infinitely intelligent God.
As far as we can see, and as much as we can analyze everything that we can observe through all of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and all other physical sciences, intelligent order is present everywhere. When we go into the greatest detail in the microcosm and macrocosm out into space, examining and analyzing all things, we see that that organization is infinitely complex. The finer our instruments become, the more details of intelligent organization are revealed to us. The further we see into the universe, the more an intelligent organization of the stars and galaxies is revealed to us.
Though scientists learn something new every day, though inventors create new technology and devices, and though genetic engineers manipulate biochemical components of life, genetic material, to alter living things, ... can man create from scratch everything involved in even one flower perfectly? ... not re-arranging parts of life that are already existing, but designing it from nothing in a way that is perfect? Not at all. Now think about what is involved in designing an infinite variety of living things as well as inanimate things, all balanced in the perfect ecological relationship found in Nature.
Yes, everything in Nature is organized in perfect order. There must be something that caused it to be intelligently and perfectly organized and to have that order. What is That? That is something worth thinking about and considering.
Because proud man would prefer that there be no God, that God not be involved at all in the creation of the universe or human life, he works to find explanations of how things come into being without God, he fails at every turn, then gets irate if you point out that there are "holes" in his argument, that the logic he uses has flaws. When he fails to explain how all of existence, everything that is, could come into being without some First Cause, First essential Being, he may say, "some day in the future, we'll figure this out," but "whatever it is, it's not 'God' " For proud man, everything is based upon his first guiding principle: "anything but God." And he strives throughout his life to live according to that principle in all he does.
If you ask proud man how he can explain where kinetic energy, potential energy and matter came from before the Big Bang, he has no answer. If you ask him about what cause came before all the causes and effects in the universe, he shrugs his shoulders and says, "it came out of nothing." When you point out that all of science is based upon the consistent intelligently arranged order throughout absolutely everything in the universe, or science could not exist, that there must be an original Designer who arranged that order intelligently, he says that it all just happened by chance, without explaining how it could just happen "by chance."
Proud man has a blank look and stares at you, saying, "what purpose do you have for asking that?" "We explained it." "The matter is resolved," and he avoids answering. He simply pouts and seeks to make sure that you are never heard, your questions are never asked in public, that any discussion of this "God" thing is suppressed or ridiculed. He says that he has "disproved" God.
Proud man demands that you simply agree with him, because he says so! The theory of this, and the theory of that are unquestionable! "How dare you question us!" they shout!And while imposing his view that God does not exist upon everyone all around, he, and others like him, accuse those of faith of imposing their religious beliefs upon them.
Proud man is not just "proud." He is in rebellion against God, like Karl Marx, the communists and any who do not wish to humble themselves and follow the divine law, the moral code. Proud man hates the idea of owing anything to God and will not bow to God, but wants others to acknowledge his greatness, his achievements, his glory and to figuratively bow to him. He desperately wants others to follow him in his denial of God, as if having others go down the same dark path validates his folly!
We see that we can know that God exists, that God must exist, using right reason, and knowing that He exists begins our journey, our approach reaching out to Him and our walk with Him.
St. Thomas Aquinas says of the First Cause3 that we know as God:
"For the existence that is God is of such a condition that nothing can be added to it; therefore, it is distinct from every other existence by its own purity itself. And for this reason, ... the first cause, which is existence only, is individuated through its own pure goodness." [and]
"Perfect." "Pure Goodness." "Existence only." That we may not understand how this can be simply serves to demonstrate our limited capabilities, and gives rise to humility, wonder, awe and ultimately to real love. Once we know that He exists, that He must exist, if we are sincere in desiring to know Him and to follow His will, we begin to study, to learn, to pray, to seek Him. We cannot know or understand all that He is, because we are limited beings with limited understanding, but we can come to know Him, to have a relationship with Him as we open to Him.
Some say, "you cannot know God," but that is not so. We cannot know all of God, but He can reveal Himself to us through grace, through those prophets who have heard His voice, through Himself, the dear Lord, whose words are recorded as divine revelation in the Torah or Old Testament, and in the New Testament.
We may drink one drop of water out of all the waters that exist on Earth or in the universe, and we then know that water exists, and we know something about it, though we don't directly know or contact all water. In just the same way, He may give us a taste, a grace, a glimpse, so that we know He is with us.
Each may have his or her own experience or way of understanding this. If we reflect carefully and consider our own lives from childhood onwards, we will see that God reaches out to touch each one of us in some way, at some point in our lives. It may be an inner knowing, a feeling, a seeing or perceiving, a dream or vision, but in that grace, perhaps only a brief moment, we taste His presence, His love, His mercy, His goodness.
That we don't understand God is right and just, because we are finite beings, imperfect beings, and our reason is limited. God is described as infinite, perfect, "ineffable," incapable of being fully expressed, a Being who is beyond words. Yet, even though He is beyond words, He has revealed much to us.
We are duty-bound, therefore, to learn what He has told us of His law, the divine law, and we are also duty-bound, from observing our common human nature, to learn what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral, what way brings happiness and what way does not, or to understand what is called the Natural Law. When we do, we are duty-bound to strive to do what is right, moral and good, for us and all around us, because He created us to do just this.
Some may find this strange that in obeying the Natural and Divine Law, we do that which is best for us, but it makes perfect sense, since in creating us in just the way He did, male and female, He did so with the intent that we be happy, that we live well, loving Him, and loving each other.
When we learn more about Him and what He has told us, we will then understand that human rights, rights of all those in need that we serve, come from Him. We realize that all true human rights are intended by Him, that it is His will that we treat others with love and great respect, and in so doing, live with real dignity.
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