Monday, June 30, 2008

The Vague Voice of God

Continuing rumination on David Ray Griffin's Reenchantment without Supernaturalism:

One thing I am realizing as I work my way through this book again is that I need to spend more time trying to understand Process theology's strong emphasis on the reality of non-sensory perception. It seems to me that much if not all of the PT argument for the reality of God hinges on the idea that there is more than one mode of perception. There is the "sensationalist" mode which is what our senses tell us and what we can measure and verify scientifically. At this level, Richard Dawkins is right. There really is no verifiable evidence that God exists. But that is ok because the "sensationist" mode of perception is only one mode of perception. There is also a "prehensive" mode of perception; this is part of the body of data that comes to us at each moment along with sensory data. For example:
We can be somewhat clearly aware of prior moments of our own experience. We are somewhat less clearly aware of our sensory organs, being, for example, much more clearly aware of a green tree than we are of the fact that we are seeing it with our eyes. And when we come to those bodily actualities that are most directly given to our dominant occasions of experience, namely, our brain cells, we are seldom if ever conscious of their experience, although they are contributing enormous amounts of data to our experience. (p. 348)
We have only the vaguest awareness of what is going on behind the scenes when we bring our attention to the data brought to us by our senses. But it is there and it is real and these bodily actualities are only one kind of prehensive data that we usually just take for granted. And it is here in the midst of this background noise that we must look for God:
We must compare our prehension of God, accordingly, not with the data of presentational immediacy but with the other prehensions of actualities in the mode of causal efficacy. And here the vagueness is comparable. (p. 348)
God is still speaking, vaguely. How does that play in Peoria? The problem I have with this is I am on the one hand very much a materialist. Show me the scientific proof. I have friends who believe in ghosts and I have friends who believe in God. I am an intellectual skeptic. I am still looking for verifiable evidence.

On the other hand, this skepticism doesn't really define the reality of my life. I trust the essential goodness of the universe. I see beauty everywhere I look. I experience awe and inner peace and love regularly. Can I prove that any of these things are real? Yet I trust their reality.

So I know that there is something more to this life than what my senses tell me. Vaguely. But I need to think more about the way PT understands this.

1 comment:

ProgressiveChurchlady said...

About 25 years ago a good friend (a mathematician and chemist)said to me,"you are looking for answers to those things which have no answer." I took this advice to heart and quit trying to prove things that are scientifically unprovable.

I consider myself a pragmatic optimist. I like things to make sense as much as the next person but some things that I am quite comfortable accepting "on faith" without proof.

On the list of things I'd really like to understand, the existance of God is not near the top. The cure for cancer, MS, and other debilitating diseases or how to unwind brain biochemistry to relieve those who suffer from mental illness.

It is said that to understand compassion, you have to observe or experience suffering. This for me is enough. I'm happy to just bask in the beauty of the heartache of the universe around me without total understanding. Sometimes the quest to understand gets in the way of experiencing and enjoying and helping things that surround me.

As Sheryl Crow sings, "Why can't we get out of our heads and into our hearts?"

Don't forget to take a break from all that reading and thinking and go flyfishing, gardening, and spending time with your friends and family!

Missing my liberalchurch family while enjoying my relatives and native land of Holmes County, Ohio.