I am not entirely sure why the chapter is titled The Knowledge of God because that makes me think we are going to talk about how smart God is. Maybe a more appropriate title is The Knowledge that God Exists. I mean… how do we really know if God exists?
We talked about clues that He exists last week but how do we know for ourselves if He exists or not. Keller argues that we all know deep down that God exists because of our feelings of right and wrong. He argues that the reason we have moral convictions is because deep down we know there is something higher than ourselves. However, as Keller points out, many people these days “still have strong moral convictions, but unlike people in other times and places, they don’t have any visible basis for why they find some things evil and other things good.” If you don’t believe in God then why are there humanitarian movements? Keller conclusion is “whether we are loving or cruel in the end would make no difference at all” if we believe there is no God.
I know this is a long quote but this is the argument Keller makes. “If violence is totally natural why would it be wrong for strong humans to trample weak ones?” This is the whole survival of the fittest and natural selection argument, basically the strong ruling over the weak is the normal behavior we see in nature. So why would humans be any different? Anyways, he continues, “There is no basis for moral obligation unless we argue that nature is in some part unnatural. We can’t know that nature is broken in some way unless there is some supernatural standard of normalcy apart from nature by which we can judge right and wrong. That means there would have to be heaven or God or some kind of divine order outside of nature in order to make that judgment.”
However, while I do believe in God, I’m not sure I totally agree with the argument Keller makes in this chapter. There are just too many assumptions in this argument for me to take it seriously.
First off, Keller’s argument is that it is completely unnatural for a species to want to protect its own kind. Therefore, since humans have the desire to protect the weak and minorities they are somehow unique compared to anything else we find in nature. As a result, they could not possibly have evolved those characteristics.
Well, yes, there are some species that are completely barbaric to their own kind like the praying mantis, who eats their mate after mating. However, there are other species like the musk ox that form a large circle when they are attacked. The young and weak are kept safe from predators by staying at the center of the circle while the strong form the outside of the circle to fend off the wolves and grizzly bears. I see this as a strong example of another species in nature, besides humans, wanting to protect and save their own kind. This kind of behavior helps the whole species to survive and thrive since they all work together to protect each other.
However, I would agree with Keller’s advice to, “pick up the Biblical account of things and see if it explains our moral sense any better than a secular view. If the world was made by a God of peace, justice, and love, then that is why we know that violence, oppression, and hate are wrong. If the world is fallen, broken, and needs to be redeemed, that explains the violence and disorder we see.”