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Finding intellectual fulfillment: Christian faith vs. atheism

Unsplash/Hao Wen
Unsplash/Hao Wen

Part of intellectual fulfillment is the exercise of unfettered curiosity. Also, wonder can provide inclinations that should make one think freely. Christian faith provides wonder that continues to draw people into conversation. Atheism also experiences wonder but compels itself to think about it within strictly material references. Its curiosity is thus limited to a strict methodology or even undermined altogether. Can such a thinking approach achieve ultimate intellectual fulfillment? I am convinced that personally knowing God achieves intellectual fulfillment, whereas atheism is intellectually trapped.

Look at the starry night, look at the precision of our solar system, look at the fascinating functions of our cells, and look at athletes excelling in their sport, these observations should create wonder in the minds of the curious. Ever wonder how the Earth can zoom around the Sun at 67,000 miles per hour while spinning around at 1,000 miles per hour, and its surface maintains the perfect level of gravity for constant human stability? It’s utterly amazing. Ever wonder how an athlete can focus and run a flawless 100-meter hurdles with a speed of about 12 or 13 seconds? It’s so elegant and inspirational.

To answer that such phenomena are explained by materialism reveals not only intellectual smugness and a lack of wonder but also enormous incuriosity.

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Richard Dawkins famously quipped that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Does this mean that by material agencies Darwin accounted for all living organisms and so disbelief in God is justified? Even if a Darwinian world were true, how can matter alone generate curiosity, wonder, and reason toward intellectual fulfillment?  If matter is what began life, and if matter is all that there is, or ever will be, curiosity, wonder and the experience of beauty cannot be calibrated. In materialism, then, how can the mind evaluate what is wonderful, beautiful, and appreciate remarkable achievements? Even if a curious atheist would ask these questions, there can be no fulfilling answers in a strictly material world. By extension, atheism cannot provide intellectual fulfillment.

Our human experience contradicts the restricted thinking of materialism. The mind is always inclined to explore what is beyond the material, as attested to by the research scientists at SETI. Does this mean that adherents to atheism cannot be genuinely curious or experience wonder? Not at all. What it does mean is that such inclinations do not come from atheism. They come from a realm that evidently is other than material.

A Christian also studies, comprehends, and engages with the realities of the material world, but claims that in Christ “are hidden all the treasurers of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). The experience of God’s grace opens up beauty and wonder about the material universe. The laws of science reveal magnificent structures of design, fine-tuning, and constants that are part of a cumulative warrant of His “wisdom and knowledge.” Likewise moral law and justice are part of life’s tapestry and take on profound meaning in a Christian worldview. Materialism cannot provide the objective reference of morality that we all experience. Christian faith thus provides a personal knowingness of the ultimate ground of our existence, thereby providing real intellectual fulfillment.

Now if it’s true that God created us and the material world, and Christ the Savior can be personally known to reveal “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” wouldn’t that be the ultimate in intellectual fulfillment? An open-minded thinker would have to agree that if the Christian faith were true, then the answer would be yes. If “no,” then why not loosen up and display curiosity about something that is evidently part of humanity’s experience?

Why insist adamantly that the material world only appears designed but is not actually designed? Why fabricate our moral order as something that emerged from cultural agreements? Why accuse Christians of embracing mythology? Why leave the intellect trapped in a material world?

Atheism’s main pushback is that with time and scientific methodologies we may discover what we do not know now, and so positing God is a “gap filler” (I have addressed this elsewhere). Nevertheless, if so, atheism reveals its intellectual dissatisfaction, for how can one make such concessions of ignorance and claim to be “intellectually fulfilled?”

Now let’s be frank here. Atheism is concerned with not conceding its autonomy to think and behave as it wishes. Do atheists experience inner convictions of transgression? Of course they do, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). So atheism must cleave to materialism and avoid any path that could lead to a personal surrender to God. This is what’s really going on. Debates, contentions, denials, theories to support “appearance”, denouncements of “actuality,” and philosophical mumbo jumbo, are all intended to maintain freedom from God.

Yet Christian faith remains compelling. A recent podcast noted that “the most Googled questions” are “does life have a purpose” and “is Christianity true?” People are dissatisfied and searching for fulfillment. Of utmost importance is for people to do justice to their own thinking by exercising curiosity and genuine open-mindedness; otherwise, the mind is not being used to its full potential.

The Cross is a well-documented historical fact. There begins a wonderful journey that will satisfy a believer’s heart and intellect. The once famous former atheist, C. S. Lewis, articulated it this way: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This should resonate with all curiously minded people, and prompt genuine free-thinking towards real intellectual fulfillment.

Marlon De Blasio is a cultural apologist, Christian writer and author of Discerning Culture. He lives in Toronto with his family. Follow him at MarlonDeBlasio@Twitter

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