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Unthink God

by Tim O'Hearn

I have some friends who haven’t had an original thought in their lives. On the other hand, I have some friends who are very profound thinkers. One of them, named Alicia, recently came up with this gem.

“You cannot explain away God's beauty, because your thoughts belong to Him. Explain your thoughts away, and you may be able to explain God away."

This may or may not be up there with Descartes’ “cogito, ergo sum,” but it expresses an even more profound thought. Where Descartes says, “I think, therefore I am,” Alicia says, “I think, therefore God is.”

We live in a world that seems to be bent on pitting science against the Bible, knowledge against faith. Some of us believe that such dichotomies are purely artificial. Faith does not do away with knowledge, nor knowledge faith. Science and the Bible are two independent disciplines; the Bible is not a science textbook, nor does science deal with metaphysics. Yet this quotation sums up the union between science and religion, philosophy and physics.

What is beauty? More importantly, whence beauty? Keats said, “’Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” That is insufficient, though. I may look on the truth that is Sandia Peak in Albuquerque and see beauty, while others see it as just another big mountain. The science of aesthetics tries to explain why one person sees beauty and another doesn’t, but is no closer to explaining beauty, or the origins of beauty, than any other science. Beauty exists, and beauty exists in creation.

If there is beauty, there is beauty in the creator. Some might look at Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and argue that his prints may be beautiful but his shortened legs are grotesque. Others would argue that the physical body does not always reflect the beauty within. There is beauty in the works of the deaf Beethoven or the blind Homer. In the same way, a recognition of beauty in nature implies a beautiful mind behind it. Blind Milton can create beauty, but blind creation cannot explain the concept of beauty.

God created man in his image. I will not argue that man is the only creature that has a concept of beauty, but man is able to express his appreciation of beauty better than any other beast. Elephants can paint, but is the abstraction they put on canvas an expression of their concept of beauty, or is it merely random strokes of a paintbrush? We cannot know for certain. But we can know what we consider beautiful, and so often it coincides with what others consider beauty to be. God could have created a world in shades of grey, like the paintings of J. M. Whistler. After all, most animals appear to be without the ability to distinguish color. And yet God gave man the ability to see color, and to think it beautiful.

Our thoughts belong to God. In five different passages, Jesus is said to have known the thoughts of the people around him. Even the Holy Spirit, the word of God, knows our thoughts.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

It is through those thoughts, known to God, that we express to Him and to others the beauty of God. It is in those thoughts that we even identify beauty. Without thought, there is no beauty. And so the only way we can explain away God is to explain away thought. When we think of God, he exists.

And yet we cannot explain away our thoughts. Someone supposedly told an old alchemist that the secret to changing lead to gold was to melt it and stir it for half an hour without thinking the word “rhinoceros.” The poor man was doomed to failure, because thereafter when he stirred lead, he thought, “I have to do this without thinking rhinoceros.” Thereby he thought the word, and failed the alchemy. In like manner, to think that there is no God requires thinking about God. Alicia is right. Explain your thoughts away and maybe, but probably not, you can explain God away. And even then, he will continue to exist.