Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Unmoved Mover

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Genesis 1:1-5

In a recent column in her church newsletter, my colleague Barbara Fast, Pastor of Westminster Unitarian Church, commented on how faith is often found in the ordinary and the everyday. She talked about the spiritual implications of a recent episode of the TV program, “Bones.”

The program is based on the life of a female forensic anthropologist. Bones is a committed atheist. In a recent episode she talked about what happens when her “faith in reason and consequences is shaken.” She said she remembers that 2 + 2 still equals 4. “I put sugar in my coffee and it tastes sweet. The sun comes up because the world turns. These things are beautiful to me. There are mysteries I will never understand, but everywhere I look I see proof for every effect there is a corresponding cause, even if I cannot see it. I find that reassuring. . . . Life is good again. Life is very good.”

Two observations.

First, I find it ironic that she has translated Aristotle’s classic argument for God as the “unmoved mover” into modern informal language. Aristotle argued that since everything is caused by something, the world must itself be caused by something. That first cause, the “unmoved mover,” is what Aristotle calls God. There is more to the argument of course, but those are the “bones” of it.

Second, it is amazing that different people can look at the same phenomena and come to very different conclusions. Bones sees cause and effect and predictable order, and concludes that the world is nothing more than actions and reactions. For centuries, Christians have looked at that same predictable and orderly world and seen it as evidence of God.

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