My Philosophy of Balance
Balance. Our world depends upon it physically, psychologically, and spiritually. This principle, although easy to overlook, is the foundation of my personal philosophy. Without balance there is no harmony, no conflict and no growth. Any productive result, any achievement, any strength is useless without it.
The balance in my world is achieved by these fundamental beliefs: God exists, and yet evil exists; all humanity does have free will and all these beliefs contribute to the development of a meaning for life. All of these beliefs are components of each other, an interdependent relationship that creates my personal philosophy. Each value’s participation in my final belief is measured and balanced to a precise amount, leaving an end result of harmony, certainty, belief and faith.
I. God exists
Of all the questions that face man, the question of God’s existence is the most important. This is true not only for a person’s salvation, but because of the way this will influence all other beliefs. A belief in God will act like a polarizing factor in someone’s life, affecting the way that they think and reason about almost anything. If a person does not believe in God, this too will cause great change in the way that life is perceived.
The change that this belief brings to a person is best illustrated by Immanuel Kant’s proposition that certain conditions change our ability to perceive things. Kant’s postulation is described by Jostein Gaarder, who writes, “there are certain conditions governing the mind’s operation which influence the way we experience the world” (p. 326). Although this explanation of Kant was referring to how time and space influence our ability to reason, this would also extend to a belief in God. A belief in God influences all areas of a person’s life, especially the purpose and intent of what our lives mean, or should mean.
The question of God’s existence has been debated in philosophy to great lengths. E.K. Daniel has listed all common philosophical arguments for the existence of God in his essay “A Defense of Theism”, consisting of The Ontological Argument, The First-Cause Argument, The Argument of Contingency, The Design Argument, The Moral Argument, The Argument from Religious Experience, and The Natural Law Argument (p. 260). These arguments are familiar to any basic student of philosophy, along with the critiques that have been raised by philosophers such as Ernest Nagel in his essay “The Case for Atheism” (p. 274-283). These arguments have almost reached a virtual impasse, since there seems to be as much rational proof against the existence of God as there is fervor to believe in God. K.D. Ellis states this by saying “They may offer some support for the plausibility of the belief in a god, but they are not sufficiently strong enough to compel our assent to the conclusion that a god exists” (p. 297). This difference of perspective results in theism, atheism and agnosticism.
One of the rational reasons that I offer as proof of God’s existence is exactly because of the impasse of this debate. Given this, the deductive argument/thesis that I pose for the existence of God is:
If God exists, he wants people to believe in Him through faith (If A, then B).
For faith to exist there must not be incontrovertible proof of God’s existence (If B, then C).
Therefore, God exists because there is no incontrovertible proof of God’s existence (If A, then C).
It is prudent to define the terms of this argument. My definition of “God” is exactly as Ellis defined: “a being who is (deemed to be) omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, perfect, infinite, eternal, supernatural, and thus transcendent to the natural universe…the god of traditional theism” (p. 296). My view of God is that he is a being with a genuine personality, character traits and intelligence that exponentially surpass that of human beings. It is difficult to accurately define God, since the terms that we use to describe Him involve conceptualization that is far beyond our ability to imagine. This God would be the farthest realization of any positive feature that we possess, including the aspect of fairness. This concept of fairness, which we as humans adore but seldom adhere to, would constitute a God of balance, equality and benevolence.
By exists, I mean that God is alive, with full power and ability. I define faith as being “the assured expectation of things hoped for,” similar to the definition that is found in biblical text. Through mention of “incontrovertible proof” I mean that a rational argument or physical manifestation that would or could occur that would prove to all humanity, regardless of their individual level of skepticism, that God does indeed exist.
To analyze this thesis, let us begin with the question of the necessity of faith. Does God really require faith in him for a person to be considered a true servant? The only way that this can be answered is through God’s written word, the Bible. In the Bible, it is written at John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life” (p. 1330). Jesus also stated that it was faith that would determine if a person would share in God’s rewards of the afterlife at John 11:25 by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all” (p. 1345). Ephesians 4:5 speaks of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” (p. 1460) further showing that faith is an essential part of being a servant of God. In scripture upon scripture, it is clear that faith is indeed an essential, if not one of the most important factors in worshipping God.
The next step is to analyze how proof would affect faith. If there were undeniable proof that God exists, would there be any that would not believe in him? I cannot imagine a single rational mind that would actively resist God (although accounting for the diversity of humanity, there might be a few), but no rational-thinking person would have any choice than to accept that God exists, and to dedicate themselves to His worship. In fact, the entire reason that there are divisions in philosophical circles between the theist, atheist and agnostic is because of the unproven nature of God’s existence. Ellis bases his entire decision to be an agnostic because “there is no good reason for anyone to believe the existence of a god” (p. 297). Bertrand Russell describes the concept of God as “a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms…a conception quite unworthy of free men” (p. 294). Being rational, thinking men, would not their concept change if there were incontrovertible proof? Of course, as all rational people are willing to accept new ideas when proven to them.
What then, becomes of faith? Simply put, there would be no faith. There would be no challenge and no benefit from believing in God. Make the question of God’s existence into an answer, and the entire nature of each person’s relationship and belief regarding God would be changed. This would be unacceptable to God. The all-powerful, omnipotent God that I envision would not be satisfied with a relationship built upon blatant proof such as this. It is the seeking of God, the willingness to take a stand to proclaim God’s belief, the love of God and the faith in God that creates the special relationship of being in “God’s grace.” Obviously, for this kind of special relationship to occur, there must not be incontrovertible rational proof of God’s existence—the very act of questioning, and answering this question by each individual is what creates the special nature of a relationship with God.
I can visualize the critics’ response to this argument. It might be said that this is a “circular” form of reasoning, since approaching this argument from another route would indicate that if there were proof of God that He would not exist. It may seem irrational, but I would agree with this statement. If there were proof of God, the God that we believe in (as defined above) would not exist. The God that manifests the qualities of this definition would not want to have automatons as subjects. The God of our definition above would want a special relationship that was based on more than rational acceptance of his existence. If there were indeed incontrovertible truths of God’s existence, then the God that did exist would be not be the God that we have envisioned, worshipped, or even inadequately defined as now.
Therefore, I believe the thesis: God exists.
II. Evil exists
Remembering that the God we have defined is a creature dedicated to the highest standards of balance, this would demand that we accept that if good exists, evil must exist too. Whether speaking of moral or physical evil, these must exist for good to exist as well. The idea of a “harmony of opposites” is not exclusive to the God of traditional theism. Native Americans have long believed that for good to exist, that evil must also as presented by the Golden Mean issue (Bruchac, p. 59). The Oriental religion of Taoism speaks of the Chinese alchemical symbol of the yin and the yang, and how opposites must exist as an interdependency for either to exist at all (Eshleman, p. 276).
Look at the world around us: for each attribute or quality, there is a clear opposite. Whether day/night, up/down, inside/outside or good/evil, there is always a positive or negative counterpart. This is even true in the world of physics, such as in the negative and positive charges of electrons. There is a reason for polarity in our world because much like the Taoist belief, this “harmony of opposites” must exist in all situations of our world.
This stands true when considering how belief in God’s existence affects our ability to reconcile our vision of Him as all-powerful when evil exists. Let us begin by looking at a simple example, how we function as parents. Surely, we have the ability to protect our children from any harm at all, if we are willing to go to great lengths to do so. This child might actually live in protective “bubble” designed to prohibit any germ or infection from reaching the child. We may impose strict censorship on any reading or writing materials to make sure that the child never gains knowledge that evil exists. We might make sure that the child has no peers, to prevent any learning of evil or anything negative at all. This child would live in a controlled environment that would be safe from any calamity, any accident, and any possibility of injury. Yes, we have the ability to forge a “child” that would never have any concept or experience of evil, but would we do that? On the contrary, a person that treated a child like this would be looked upon as an abuser rather than a loving parent.
A loving parent realizes that evil is an eventuality that all children will eventually experience. Rather than trying to modify the environment to remove evil from their grasp, we instill morality and character that will help this developing person to survive, and in fact, triumph over evil. Would not God, our father, act accordingly but at even a superior level? Yes, God could remove all evil from the world. However, being the God of balance that he is, realizing that a “harmony of opposites” is necessary to achieve completion, and allowing us to experience these things are all an innate part of Him.
Critics of this position could cite many arguments against this, but I would answer all their positions with one statement: as outlined above, we could conceivably remove (virtually) all evil from a child’s life, but we would interpret that as a severe wrong-doing…why would we expect this from God?
III. The Question of Free Will
The existence of God has a huge determining influence upon the belief of humanity and the question of free will. The ability to choose, whether if the choice is right or wrong is a glorious freedom that our God allows us, and stands as an indicator of what God’s character is truly like.
Being an omnipotent being, this would demand that whatever positive qualities we human beings possess would be exponentially realized in an all-powerful being. Even with our diminished qualities of acceptance, love for other beings and self-respect, we can learn from ourselves about the qualities of God. In human relationships, when one party is able to exert full control over the situation, to force the person through either mental or physical methods to bend to the controlling party’s will, how do we define that relationship? We determine that this is an “unhealthy” relationship. Any person that desires a “healthy” relationship does not wish the company of a person that will acquiesce to anything that we want. Rather, the people that are controlled by such a relationship are looked upon as pathetic.
David G. Myers writes about the key to a gratifying and enduring relationship: equity. “When equity exists, when both partners freely give and receive, when they share decision-making…this is at the core of every type of loving, healthy relationship. It’s true for lovers, for parent and child, and intimate friends” (p. 585). If this is the type of relationship that we try to achieve with each other, would not our God, who excels in any hint of positive quality that we possess, want the same?
Yes, being all-powerful, God would have the ability to make all people choose from only the right path. However, as discussed earlier, God is a creature of balance. It would be contrary to His nature to create only one side of the equation. To truly experience free will humans must be able to choose right as well as wrong, for only when the “harmony of opposites” occurs, can we approach a relationship with God.
Critics such as Robert Blatchford would state that there is no such thing as free will. Blatchford contends that our will is anything but free, being ruled by our experiences and how we were raised (p. 112). I would argue that based upon an understanding of God as a creature that embodies fairness, that it would unfair to regulate a person’s choices to be a result of their life experiences. Due to the existence of both moral and physical evil, our choices could be bound by the circumstances that could befall us all. Without the ability to rise against our own upbringing and experience, we would never truly taste “free will,” but just a culmination of our own experience.
This would also work against the possibility of a relationship with God in many cases. If free will did not exist, someone who was raised in an environment that was opposed to a relationship with God would at an unfair disadvantage. Only by having a kind of soft determinism, where our environment might influence us, and yet we are able to choose differently if desired, could such a person be able to have a relationship with God. So, belief in the existence of God would have a huge influence on our perception of free will. The balance that is intact throughout our existence also applies to our ability to act upon free will.
IV. The Meaning Of Life
The meaning of life is a culmination of these things. With a belief in God’s existence, this extends a responsibility to reflect His qualities, His nature, and His appreciation for balance. Our belief in God will have a huge impact on the meaning of life. Tolstoy realized this when he wrote “I was inevitably led to recognize that all living humanity had a certain other irrational knowledge, faith, which made it possible to live” (p. 396). He concludes that it was this realization “was life itself and that the meaning given to this life was truth, and I accepted it.”
This is truly the challenge. Being the self-aware species that we are, we must accept that a belief in God would supersede our own selfish desires. Rather, we would mould our goals to account for our belief in God, and allow this combination of motives to guide our consciousness and direction throughout life.
Critics would charge that this would amount to a mindless existence, simply living to please God and nothing more. Again, I would challenge critics, because they do not accept a balanced view of how a belief in God can positively benefit life’s meaning. Kurt Baier describes a theist’s meaning of life as “to resign oneself cheerfully to one’s lot; to be filled with awe and veneration in regard to anything and everything that happens; to want to fall on one’s knees and worship and praise the Lord” (p. 380).
This does not present a balanced view of a life that is influenced by a belief in God. A God that we have described here, of balance and fairness, would not give a person life and then expect them to not live, except by mindlessly fulfilling religious routines. Our God of balance would want us to appreciate Him and love Him, but to live our lives within the expectations of self-actualization that each conscience directs.
From the standpoint of fairness, how fair would it be to give a human being ambition, a dedication to excellence, gifts of talent or intelligence, curiosity and a desire to achieve and then to delegate expectations that these attributes were never used? This also, would not fit with the character of God that we have discussed.
V. In Conclusion
Life, in its entirety, is an exercise in balance. Our belief, our values, our very essence depends upon the thriving and interplay of opposites. We are created in the “image” of God. Our truest test is to find that balance, the “harmony of opposites” within each one of us. With God as our guide we will face the challenges that we choose, try to live good lives and enjoy that most special of relationships, with our creator.