Emmanuel Has Come

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

Throughout my life I’ve had more discussions with people about God than I dare count. Most conversations are with believers who accept him despite their lack of proof; others with skeptics who reject him, or throw up their hands in uncertainty, because they deem the evidence contrary or inconclusive.

When I’ve asked what would seal the deal, I’ve gotten two answers: “To have God reveal himself,” or “to see a bona fide miracle,” some marvel beyond material explanation.

I’ve always thought these responses odd. Folks who shun the existence of a immaterial God they’ve never seen have no problem readily accepting the existence of quantum fields, the mind, memes, free will, and the Big Bang, to name but a few of the things they, likewise, have never seen.

When I bring up phenomena like information, consciousness, creativity, physical laws, and life itself, as inexplicable in a non-intelligent world, they, like a character in one of my favorite films, shrug, “Oh, those are just products of nature.”

Just a Dog
Finding Neverland (2004), based on the life of Peter Pan author, James Barrie, follows Barrie’s friendship with Sylvia Davies and her four young boys.

During their initial meeting, the boys ask Barrie how he makes a living. With their brother Peter diverted elsewhere, Barrie glances at his dog and replies:

Well, currently, I make my living entertaining princes and their courts with my trained bear, Porthos. If you command your brother, Peter, to join us, I am willing to give you just such a performance.”

“Very well” the boys reply, as Peter reluctantly redirects his attention.

“Now … I want you to pay particular attention to the teeth. Some unscrupulous trainers will show you a bear whose teeth have all been pulled, while other cowards will force the brute into a muzzle. Only the true master would attempt these tricks without either measure of safety.”

“This is absurd,” snaps Peter. “It’s just a dog.”

“Just a dog”? “Just”? Porthos, don’t listen to him. Porthos dreams of being a bear and you want to dash those dreams by saying he’s “just a dog”? What a horrible, candle-snuffing word. That’s like saying, “He can’t climb that mountain, he’s just a man.” Or, “That’s not a diamond, it’s just a rock.”

“Fine then. Turn him into a bear…if you can.”

“With those eyes, my bonny lad, I’m afraid you’d never see it.”

I’ve known people, like young Peter, who are afflicted with a special kind of glaucoma—one that impairs its victims from seeing beyond physical appearances. For them, “just” is a hammer—a dream-squashing utterance that reduces the extraordinary to the ordinary, the significant to the insignificant, the sacred to the profane: “She’s just a clerk.” “It’s just a clump of cells.” “It’s just a part of our evolutionary heritage.” “It’s just a myth.” It’s a word that was used against the most significant person to ever walk the earth. Continue reading here.

Originally published December 21, 2017.

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