Shakespeare in the Attic: Should We Go Looking for God?
Lately I’ve been reading (for the third time) Tim Keller’s excellent book, The Reason for God (2008) and came across one of my favorite passages. Don’t settle for this brief excerpt alone, but read it for yourself (whether it be your first or fifth time through the book). Continue reading . . .
Lately I’ve been reading (for the third time) Tim Keller’s excellent book, The Reason for God (2008) and came across one of my favorite passages. Don’t settle for this brief excerpt alone, but read it for yourself (whether it be your first or fifth time through the book). He writes:
“When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle looking for Shakespeare. If there is a God, he wouldn’t be another object in the universe that could be put in a lab and analyzed with empirical methods. He would relate to us the way a playwright relates to the characters in his play. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree the author chooses to put information about himself in the play. Therefore, in no case could we ‘prove’ God’s existence as if he were an object wholly within our universe like oxygen and hydrogen or an island in the Pacific.
Lewis gives us another metaphor for knowing the truth about God when he writes that he believes in God ‘as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ Imagine trying to look directly at the sun in order to learn about it. You can’t do it. It will burn out your retinas, ruining your capacity to take it in. A far better way to learn about the existence, power, and quality of the sun is to look at the world it shows you, to recognize how it sustains everything you see and enables you to see it.
Here, then, we have a way forward. We should not try to ‘look into the sun,’ as it were, demanding irrefutable proofs for God. Instead we should ‘look at what the sun shows us.’ Which account of the world has the most ‘explanatory power’ to make sense of what we see in the world and in ourselves? We have a sense that the world is not the way it ought to be. We have a sense that we are very flawed and yet very great. We have a longing for love and beauty that nothing in this world can fulfill. We have a deep need to know meaning and purpose. Which worldview best accounts for these things?
Christians do not claim that their faith gives them omniscience or absolute knowledge of reality. Only God has that. But they believe that the Christian account of things – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration – makes the most sense of the world. I ask you to put on Christianity like a pair of spectacles and look at the world with it. See what power it has to explain what we know and see” (pp. 122-23).