Continuing with our wondering about God’s punishment, C. S. Lewis has these words: A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble—because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death Christ Himself carried out . . . the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us (emphasis mine).
There are many, many more explanations, of course, but this one speaks to me.Makes me wish Lewis had “spoken to me” as a child.
But it still does not answer the question of life after death and why God allows bad things to happen. Remember Lucretius’s quote, “Had God designed the world it would not be, a world so frail and faulty as we see”? The quote that C. S. Lewis repeated does raise some doubts. If God is perfect, then why did he not design a perfect world? Why do bad things still happen?
For those answers, I turned to another author and two recent books: Life After Death: The Evidence and God Forsaken (subtitle: Bad Things Happen.Is there a God Who Cares? Yes. Here’s Proof). I admit a certain attraction to the words, evidence and proof in the subtitles. I also have read Dinesh D’Souza before.
I knew him first as a secular think tank intellectual. I have seen him debate the now deceased atheist (but brilliant) Christopher Hitchens, who acknowledged D’Souza as a world-class advocate for the Christian faith.
Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, writes in the introduction to Life After Death: The mortality rate on earth is 100 percent. This book by my friend Dinesh D’Souza is a brilliant investigation of the fascinating and crucial issue of what happens when we die. It is an inquiry based on scholarship and reason and it provides a convincing answer that is explosive in its impact.
D’Souza deftly turns the table on scientists who say, “If they really believe in a life after death, why not conduct sound experiments to establish it?” D’Souza answers that religious believers don’t believe in the afterlife based on scientific tests. He then challenges them to come up with some tests to prove or disprove it. Without such tests and empirical evidence, how can true scientists reject it?
Atheists say that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. D’Souza answers that “not found” is not the same thing as “found not to exist”. Again, that speaks to me.
Life After Death also explores the beliefs of Hindus and Buddhists and their views of a life after death. The author also writes about near-death experiences including the out-of-body phenomenon, the tunnel of darkness, the bright light, the sensation of love and warmth, the life review, and subsequent life transformations.
Evolution? Yep, he covers it, saying, . . . contrary to atheist boasting, evolution cannot provide an ultimate explanation for life because evolution itself presupposes specific environmental conditions and specific entities with specific properties. The human cell, thousands of times tinier than a speck of dust, has the processing power equivalent to the largest supercomputer. So how did we get cells? How do they self-replicate? Darwin does not attempt to answer.
D’Souza also says that evolution does a good job of accounting for why we are selfish animals, but it faces immense challenges in accounting for why we simultaneously hold that we ought not to be selfish (emphasis mine).
In a chapter called Good for You, D’Souza refers to William James, the founder of modern psychology. James makes the point that while belief in life after death poses the risk of adopting a position without complete proof . . . unbelief poses the risk of missing out on the blessings of immortality that are promised to believers. Makes sense to me. Who was it who said only half in jest, “Why take a chance?’
Believers are provided with hope at death and a way to cope. For atheists, death is a disaster. Belief infuses life with an enhanced sense of meaning and purpose. Belief gives us a reason to be moral and a way to transfer that morality to our children. Finally, there is strong evidence that belief in life after death makes your life better and also makes you a better person.
On page 166, I found my favorite words from D’Souza. Here is my pre-suppositional argument for life after death. Unlike material objects and all other living creatures, we humans inhabit two domains: the way things are, and the way things ought to be.
Why is it my favorite passage? Because on page three of Rivers’ Flow, Griffin Rivers says, “Flow is the difference between the way things are and the way they ought to be.” I promise not to sue D’Souza for plagiarism. Just kidding. I am sure others have said and written this many times before.
Next week: D’Souza’s book on why bad things happen and whether God cares.