As part of our ongoing discussion on mysticism and the role of reason in coming to faith, Chris over at Work in Progress
It is true that it is absurd that God became a poor Jewish carpenter, dwelt amongst us, and then was killed by us. Please write a post explaining how the existence of existence is not absurd.
That is, without taking the man next door for granted, explain why God becoming a Jewish carpenter is any more absurd than there being a man next door, or a door to separate you two. That is, explain how God becoming a man is any *more* absurd than everything else without recourse to arbitrarily defining everything else as normal but
[incarnation] as absurd. Or, more simply, say clearly what you mean by 'absurd'.
Because if you mean nothing more than "not predicted by experience", it's obviously a philosophically worthless term, since it's not even of great practical value (unless you particularly enjoy getting burned in the stock market or blown up by terrorists in the world trade center).
We'll just use a handy dictionary definition, with an emphasis on the bolded section.
Categories of Speculation
\Ab*surd"\, a. [L. absurdus harsh-sounding; ab + (prob) a derivative fr. a root svar to sound; not connected with surd: cf. F. absurde. See Syringe.] Contrary to reason or propriety; obviously and fiatly opposed to manifest truth; inconsistent with the plain dictates of common sense; logically contradictory; nonsensical; ridiculous; as, an absurd person, an absurd opinion; an absurd dream.
This proffer is absurd and reasonless. --Shak.
'This phrase absurd to call a villain great. --Pope. --p. 9
Syn: Foolish; irrational; ridiculous; preposterous; inconsistent; incongruous.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
The challenge seems to be to describe why existence itself is no less absurd than God appearing as a Jewish carpenter. I could probably argue that we're really not dealing with the same kinds of categories here — one comparing being and nothingness and thus a rather abstraction and metaphysical set of thinking, and the other is more concrete and can be based on things we can see, hear, feel and touch, that is, the physical world.
It is not arbitrary to choose to make logical inferences in one arena and keep them in that arena. The incarnation occurred in the physical world. It's a physical world question. We can make predictions based on experience in that physical world, and the claims of Christianity flatly contradict those predictions. The stock market and the terrorist attacks are based on social and individual behavior. But we're not talking about behavior; we're talking biology.
Arguing from Induction
Jesus allegedly was born of a virgin — that is absurd (contradicting our known experience) on its face. Human babies cannot be born of virgins (without some sort of test tube support). There have been about 10 billion humans in all of human history. If we were to construct an inductive logical argument, we would have 10 billion cases that claim one thing, and one thing that claims the other. I would argue reason is clearly on the side of the 10 billion. Now, logically, the side of the one may be correct — but I would argue that the dictates of common sense would place the burden of proof on the side arguing the one.
A similar argument can be used against the resurrection. About four billion humans have died so far, plus lots of animals. Every one that has died and not resuscitated fairly quickly is still dead, and will always be dead. An inductive argument in this case would include about 600 trillion beings, except for the one. The argument of the one has the burden of proof because it is manifestly clear that this contradicts all we know about death.
Arguing from Proportionality
A second argument concerning the absurdity of the idea of Christian incarnation relates to the relative sizes of God and man
. (Unlike in the linked essay, I'm actually discussing size here.) This is an aesthetic argument. the Holy Trinity is inelegantly formulated based on what we know now about physics, and contradicts our experience of what we know.
If scientists using the Hubble telescope have informed us that there are a trillion galaxies, each containing 100 billion stars, we have a serious proportionality problem between God the Father and God the Son in the Holy Trinity. God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit) can be expected to be big enough to encompass the entire universe, no matter how big. God the son is a little smaller than I am.
This may seem a ridiculous argument but after all we're discussing absurdity, but suppose we made a pizza out of three ingredients: cheese, crust and pepperoni. Assume the crust is God the Father, the Cheese is the Holy Spirit. If God the Son contains His normal human dimensions relative in the universe to the other two persons of the Holy Trinity, how much pepperoni is on the pizza? And, considering we're talking perhaps a molecule of pepperoni, could we in any sense call that a pepperoni pizza?
Does that answer the question?
I'm not sure. I think it does. This is one of those open-ended discussions. It'll be interesting to see how it ends up.
So how do we get to Jesus?
Grace. Faith is a gift granted to us by God. We know from our experience of the physical world that we have an intuitive knowledge of how the world works that is wrong. Rationally, there is always a window of possibility ... but this is so about all the world's religions and even the one's that don't exist.
Reason, Scripture, Tradition ... all these things are tools but you still have to have some kind of experience rooted in Grace. You cannot trust experience along, or tradition alone, or scripture alone, or reason alone. But they work together, tuning one, then another, much as you'd tune an old TV vertically, then horizontally, then you'd need to make sure the frequency was correct, and then of course the electricity was on.
So how do you come to Jesus?
You pray to God for the gift of faith. That's first. Then, you come to realize that the path to God is not a bright shining Walt Disney monorail to a gift-dispensing God in a very nice hotel, but a narrow, often lonely pathway that leads first to awareness of sin, then to the grace of forgiveness, then to the desert, and then to the feeding of the 5,000, and then to the Cross, and then to the grave, and then to resurrection in Christ.
And as you go along that path you realize more and more the necessity of coming to God that way, but far more important, of God coming to man that way.