Is God merely a punctuation point that stops you from going back in your reasoning? Should God shape our decisions about life? What if God personally interacts with human beings in history? Williams College Professor Satyan Devadoss and University of Arizona Professor William McCallum discuss their views of God.

Is God merely a punctuation point that stops you from going back in your reasoning? Should God shape our decisions about life? What if God personally interacts with human beings in history? Williams College Professor Satyan Devadoss and University of Arizona Professor William McCallum discuss their views of God.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

William McCallum:
You’re probably wondering at this stage – when is he going to start talking about God? You know, of course, I don’t start talking about God. It doesn’t enter into my reasoning or my way of looking at things. It doesn’t enter into the way I find meaning in life. I think I’ve sort of explained that.

I listen to other people and I have an impression of how people think about God. Often, I think when you take these four domains, God is somehow the punctuation point to stop you from going ever backwards in your questioning. You know, “God is the ultimate cause. God is immanent in everything we look at. God is love. God is the source of moral righteousness.”

Somehow, that’s sort of the way it works. All these four areas, God provides a sort of punctuation point. To me, as a free thinker, that also tends to mean a limit on how far you may go in your thinking. A limit on the questions you may ask. I don’t think I’m being paranoid here, because there was there was a point at which free thinkers really were thrown in jail or worse. Of course, that doesn’t happen now. There is some essential antipathy between freethinking and religion, which stops me.

In other words, God or naming something as God – using that label on some certain area of knowledge – is in a way saying you may not go further. You may not ask questions anymore. Or if you do ask questions, we’ll just tell you, “it’s a mystery.” In some sense it provides a boundary or a limit to free thinking.

Satyan Devadoss:
So let me tell you why I, as a mathematician who has been trained in logic, finds this faith attractive. Now I’m not talking about faith in general. I’m not into spirituality for the sake of spirituality. I’m taking about the Christian faith as a particular thing that I find beautiful. Let me just close by telling you why – a few things.

First, I think it is not ultimate truth given to us in an abstract setting. God giving us golden tablets of stone saying “That is truth.” But it is truth given to us in history. I believe in the Christian faith that the Bible is a record of God’s interactions with fools like me. The God of the universe personally interacting in history, and it’s recorded in the historical thing. It’s something you can measure. Now you can’t measure it scientifically, but you can at least study it historically. There is some litmus test that you can use to actually understand this thing. The climax of the Christian faith is the birth, the death, and the historical resurrection of Christ. Now if Jesus didn’t historically resurrect, this is a junk religion. But if he did resurrect, we have to take it seriously. So can we use historical tools to think about this thing? As a scientist, that I find attractive.

The second thing I find attractive is how the truth is revealed. It does not require us to give blind allegiance to a God of absolute power. But it is the God of the universe who actually gives up his absolute power, bends his knee, and gives it up for us on the cross. I find this so attractive. The heart of the Christian faith – there is a God who died for his enemies, who prayed for their forgiveness. The goal of the Christian is to imitate this God. That I find truly attractive.

The third and final reason that I find the Christian faith fantastic is that to me provides a way of restoring this world, not getting out of here, but actually fixing it. Not accepting what it is, and just putting up with injustice. Not escaping it hoping that one day I will die and float in happiness. But that one day, God will set the world right, and it starts today with us. The Christian life – to me – is not compensation for a good life – somehow I did good and I’ll get this reward – but it’s the restoration of a good life. Pain and injustice is actually given a solution here.