There are many reasons for the unbelief rampant in our times. Among them is the claim by some that because they do not see or hear evidence of God or an afterlife, our belief in these is just wishful thinking on our part so as to avoid the conclusion that everything ends with our death, that this world is all there is.
A parable currently circulating on the Internet addresses this sort of unbelief. A Facebook friend (Vicki) called it to my attention. I have adapted a bit and will present it to you here. Some sites indicate that the original author is Útmutató a Léleknek, while other sites are silent as to the source. I am only adapting it here because I have seen various forms of it and am not sure of the original. Nevertheless it is an effective parable in its essence.
Prior to having you read it please recall the nature of an analogy or a parable. An analogy presents a thing or a scenario that is “like” another one, but not exactly the same. The word parable comes from the Greek word para (alongside) + bole (to throw). Thus a parable is something that is expressed in terms of something else. It is “thrown alongside” in the sense that it is not exactly the same, but similar to what is described. The comparison discloses both the strengths and weakness of what is compared.
Many today misunderstand this and so when an analogy or parable is presented, dismiss it since it is not an exact fit. But as we’ve seen, an analogy or parable is not intended to be a perfect fit; it is intended to compare things that are merely similar. In the story that follows, we who live in the world are compared to two babies in the womb of their mother. The babies debate whether there really is anything or anyone outside the womb.
Now it is true that this world is “like” a womb, but not identical to it. Further, God is not a mother gestating us in her womb. He is Father and Creator, raising His children. But the story you are about to read is not about the nature of God per se, but about the argument that God and life after death do not exist merely because we cannot see them or because no one has verifiably claimed to have returned from Heaven to tell us all about it. So the analogy is about the argument over the existence of God and the afterlife, not about the nature of God.
So please consider this before commenting (in the comment box) that God is Father, not mother. Whether the original author meant this or not, I do not mean it in presenting the story.
With all that in mind, I present the story. The paragraphs are numbered for reference.
- In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other, “Do you believe in life after delivery?”
- The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. It seems we are obviously here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later and that we have capacities that are meant for something greater than here.”
- “Nonsense!” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What makes you think there is?”
- The second said, “Well, I am going to suppose that since we have eyes and legs and mouths that there is a world outside that has more light than here so that we can see, and where will walk about with our legs, and eat with our mouths. I mean, why would we have legs if we weren’t ever going to walk, or eyes if we weren’t ever going to have light and see? Maybe there will be many other things that we can’t understand now.”
- The first replied, “That is absurd. Your are just engaging in wishful thinking and hoping that things will get better. This is all there is. Who needs to walk? And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. And since the umbilical cord is so short, life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
- The second insisted, “Well I think there is something more than this, outside and beyond this womb. Some sort of longing is in my heart to see and walk freely and to eat and enjoy things. I mean, why would we have these legs and eyes and mouth and hands? And where did we get the longing to use them if we weren’t meant for something more? Indeed, maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
- The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
- “No,” said the second, “Surely we will meet our mother and she will take care of us.”
- The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in a mother? That’s laughable. If a mother exists then where is she now?”
- The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are from her and it is in her that we now live. Without her this world we are in now would not exist.”
- Said the first, “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exist.”
- To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when I am in silence and I focus and really listen, I can perceive her presence, and hear her loving voice, calling down from above.”
Not a bad analogy in parable form (remember, no analogy is perfect)! Here are a few thoughts on how to apply it more specifically to our situation.
In sentence #2 the believing infant says, It seems we are obviously here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later and that we have capacities that are meant for something greater than here. This translates to the fact that, as Scripture says, God has put the timeless in our heart (Eccles 3:10). In other words, we can universally imagine concepts outside of the physical word and our experience, such as the timeless, and the concept of perfection is an indication that we are called to know, see, experience, and “walk” in these one day. The infants in the womb have eyes that are made for the light, but they cannot see while in the womb. But their eyes point to the purpose for which eyes are made. Their legs are made to walk, and thought they cannot walk now, their legs point to the reality for which they are made. That our desire is infinite points to the fact that there is some One who exists to fill that desire. This logic of a capacity pointing to a fulfilment of its object is taken up in sentences #4 and #6 as well.
Sentence #5 addresses the “wishful thinking” charge. The fact is that so-called “wishful thinking” imposes demands that move beyond merely trying to please myself with wishful thoughts. Thus, if I have legs and can one day walk, I must develop that skill and then take the risk of walking. If I can see, then I must accept the responsibility of one who sees and make changes in my life based upon it. Thus the Christian vision of eternal life and a higher call are not just wishful thoughts; they are demanding thoughts. They impose on us a requirement to prepare for and strive for higher things.
Sentences #9 and #11 take up the argument that if I can’t see something with my physical eyes or weigh it on a scale then it doesn’t exist. But of course many things exist that cannot be seen. I cannot see my thoughts per se. Neither can I see justice with my eyes. I can see their effects, but I cannot see them. It is like this with God. His effects are everywhere evident in what He has made, as is the intelligence and reason with which He made them. That things work predictably and in an orderly way is the basis of the scientific method. Some intelligence ordered all this with logic and suffused it with an intelligence that is intelligible. So I do not see God, but I see His effects, just as I do not see my intelligence or thoughts but do see their effects.
Sentence #10 reminds us of the fundamental question that most materialists and atheists refuse to answer: Why is there anything at all? We argue that things exist as coming from the One who is Existence Itself. But how does an atheist argue the effect of existence? Whence its cause?
Sentence #12 reminds every believer that he must be able to render an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Indeed, I will testify that when I still my soul, I do hear God’s heartbeat. I see Him in what He has made. And when I pray, I am heard. He is changing my life and I cannot account for the new man I am except that God lives and is changing me, molding and fashioning me into the man He has made me to be. I have tested His word and found it to be true. He lives and so I live!
How say you?