An Introduction to the Evidence for the Existence of God, Part 27: Desire

EVIDENCE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD FROM EXPERIENCE: DESIRE

            We experience natural, innate desires that correspond to real objects or needs. Hunger corresponds to the real object of food and the need to be nourished. Thirst corresponds to the real object of water and the need to be hydrated. Sex corresponds to the real object of those of the opposite sex and the need for physical intimacy, pleasure and release, as well as for reproduction and the survival of humankind. There’s no innate, natural desire within us that doesn’t correspond to some real object or need.

            As humans, we experience a natural, innate desire for ultimate fulfillment, purpose, happiness, even joy. There’s nothing in this natural world that can satisfy this genuine desire. In fact, we understand that our longing is for something more than what this world has to offer. Therefore, there must be something beyond the natural world, something supernatural, to which this innate, natural desire corresponds. This object of our desire must be real, for all natural, innate desires correspond to objects that are real, that truly exist. This something that’s capable of fulfilling our greatest innate desire for ultimate fulfillment, purpose, happiness and joy we understand to be God. God provides meaning and purpose to our lives, even when the physical world and society doesn’t, and fulfillment, happiness and joy are found in our union with Him.

            In the mind of the critic, this is mere wishful thinking. I have a genuine desire for riches, but that desire doesn’t, in and of itself, make me a wealthy person. For that matter, neither does it even prove the existence of money. On the other hand, there is a natural desire for a better, more secure life. We have an innate desire to provide for our own survival, and for that of our children. It makes sense that such desire would correspond to the resources of the natural world that can make such security possible. As well, a desire for riches, in and of itself, isn’t a natural, innate desire. In point of fact, not everyone has such a desire. There are plenty of people who are perfectly happy with what they have, and have no desire at all to commit the time and energy they currently invest in their families, their hobbies, their work for the sake of others in the effort to make a worldly fortune that they know can’t be taken with them when they die. If someone lacks a desire for riches, we may think them foolish by this world’s standards, but we don’t regard them as ill. But, if one lacks a desire for food, we hold this as a mark of mental or physical illness precisely because it’s contrary to our human need for self-preservation and temporal fulfillment.

            The critique that an innate, natural desire for something can’t prove that thing’s existence is simply not confirmed by our experience. In his article, “C. S. Lewis and the Argument From Desire,” Austin Cline claims that the desire for food doesn’t prove the existence of food, only finding food could prove such. Yet, hunger does prove that we are creatures that rely on food for our nourishment and continued existence. We’re left to wonder what else other than food that actually exists could possible account for such an innate, natural desire, or what else could account for our continued existence in the absence of food that exists only in theory. It does no good, either, as Cline does, to simply dismiss these innate, natural desires as mere emotions, for no emotion has ever corresponded to a reality that is necessary for our existence. Hunger, thirst and sexual desire are not mere emotions. They’re innate, natural desires that unquestionably correspond to real objects in this world, and that correspond, as well, to needs related to our survival as individuals and as a species.

            The distinction between innate, natural desires and what we might call artificial desires is essential. There’s no experience of an innate, natural desires that doesn’t correspond to some real object or need. While some artificial desires do correspond to real objects, such as planes, cars, boats, money or mistresses, there are plenty that don’t: the desire to fly through the air, the search for unicorns or mermaids, a Super Bowl championship for the Cleveland Browns (ok, I admit that last one is at least conceivable!). Our human experience is that the desire for ultimate fulfillment, purpose, happiness and joy are innate, natural desires, and not merely the constructs of culture, ethnicity or historical era. This desire for ultimate fulfillment, the conviction that there’s more to life than what this world has to offer, is universal. Every human society has pointed to something, not only greater than themselves, but greater than the world itself, greater than all of Creation as they understood it. They have also experienced the desire to participate in that something that’s more than what this world has to offer.

            But, the critic might counter: I’m perfectly happy now! Or, I would be happy if I could obtain those things that believers claim as artificial desires. All I need is my good health and riches, then I would be truly happy. Again, our human experience refutes this. Indeed, the number of people who’ve attained these artificial desires, yet remain unfulfilled, fill the pages of our magazines and newspapers every day.

            The objections to this universal human experience are based on little more than wishful thinking or stubborn denial. Critics simply deny either the reality of the desire for something more, or that this desire can be fulfilled only in something beyond our natural world. But, this is our human experience, and denying that is futile. Since the beginning, we’ve longed for something more, something beyond. Rather than deny this, better to ask why this is so. Why would we have this longing if it didn’t correspond to something real? The only reasonable explanations are either universal delusion or a reality that corresponds to this desire. Like every other innate, natural desire that corresponds to a real object or need, the experience of desire for something more points to the reality of something more, something beyond any object or experience this world has to offer. There’s only one reality that could be the object of this desire, the fulfillment of this need, and that is an eternal One that is the ultimate end of all. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13).

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

 

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