Believing impossible things

May 21st, 2008 | By | Category: Spirituality

The Vatican recognized aliens last week, or recognized the possibility of their existence. Father Jose Gabriel Funes is reported by Reuters as saying,

There could be (other beings) who remained in full friendship with their creator,

God is the creator. There is a sense to creation. We are not children of an accident . . .

As an astronomer, I continue to believe that God is the creator of the universe and that we are not the product of something casual but children of a good father who has a project of love in mind for us.

Matthew Engel writing in the Financial Times believes Funes’ arguments to be contradictory, one cannot retain faith in a “creator” and at the same time accommodate the findings of 21st Century astronomy.

Either we are just the teeniest particle of an infinite universe whose size is entirely beyond human comprehension, so much so that it is conceivable that someone like you is reading another article like this is in a pink-coloured newspaper in some other galaxy at precisely this moment.

Or we are all the creations of a mysterious superbeing who, from the start, had everything entirely mapped out and is looking after every detail of our lives, even when we are just reading a newspaper article.

Ex officio, the Vatican astronomer has to ask us to believe both at the same time. That combination really is too much for the brain to cope with.

Engel is right. It is too much for the human brain. Faith puts us at times into an Alice in Wonderland world

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

But is that not the point of faith? If the brain could fathom everything, what place would there be for faith?

Leave a comment »

  1. I agree it’s hard to get one’s head round this. On the other hand I think of one of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, ‘The Blue Cross’, in which Father Brown identifies the criminal Flambeau, who has disguised himself as a clergyman. How does Flambeau give himself away? He suggests there might be ‘wonderful universes above us where reason is wholly unreasonable’. As Father Brown says: ‘You attacked reason. It’s bad theology.’

  2. As a fan of Father Brown (and an English liberal when the wind is in a southwesterly direction), I am inclined to agree.

    I wonder, though, what Chesterton a conservative Catholic, would have made of Funes’ arguments, would he have have agreed with Engel that they were unreasonable?

    When the wind is north-easterly, and I am an evangelical Protestant, I would point to Paul’s words to the church at Corinth, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” and dismiss Father Brown’s argument that reason and theology could comfortably coexist!

  3. But it is something else to suppose that scientific methods and the truths thus arrived at constitute the only kind of knowledge we can have. It wasn’t that long ago that we thought the earth was flat!

Leave Comment