The Argument of the Shadows

Shadow Proves the Sunshine PTIn June, 2002, in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attack, 25-year-old Pat Tillman abruptly left a multi-million dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals and enlisted in the US Army. He declined all interview requests, asking to be looked upon as any other soldier. Nevertheless, the news turned him into a national phenom overnight.

Two years later, he was shot and killed in the mountains of Afghanistan. At his memorial service in San Jose, CA, carried live by major media outlets, a US Navy Seal, a friend of the family, gave a moving eulogy. He told how Pat had died in a heroic attempt to rescue his platoon brothers from an enemy ambush. “Pat sacrificed himself so his brothers could live.” He was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest honor awarded for valor in battle with enemies of the United States. The public memorials were ceremonies befitting a hero.

But Pat’s family soon began to suspect there was more to the story than what they had been told. Pat’s mother, Mary “Dannie” Tillman, started poking around, and over time the story changed. Meanwhile, as investigations unfolded, the media outlets would cut, paste, and package the story to suit their editorial objectives. Pat Tillman became even more of a news phenom, exactly what he did not want to be. His wife Marie began to wonder, Where was Pat the person in all this?

Fratricide
Eventually, it came out that Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire. It hadn’t even been in an enemy attack. His death had been the result of (at best) a string of poor decisions on the part of military personnel.

Death by friendly fire, while always tragic, is a known risk of deployment. But, “Why, then, award him the Silver Star?” Pat’s father, Patrick Tillman, Sr., wanted to know. What was going on, and why had the family and the public been lied to? A wartime death was one thing, but administrative obfuscation and deception was a whole different matter. Eventually, family pressure resulted in a Congressional hearing which included testimony from top brass all the way up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. All denied knowledge and culpability, and with that, the “case” was closed.

The Death of Understanding
Well, “closed” for everyone but Pat’s family. They’re now convinced that Pat’s death was used as a propaganda tool – by the administration and military to promote the war effort and by the media to sell news. The family’s story is told in the 2010 film, The Tillman Story, directed by Berkeley producer Amir Bar-Lev. It’s a sad and troubling account, but not just because of the war, the death of Pat Tillman, or the propaganda angle. Those are troubling, of course, but there’s a deeper, wider, and more lamentable loss on display over the course of the film. It’s the death of understanding.

The Tillmans have eliminated God from their thinking. Pat’s youngest brother Richard made this clear at the memorial service. “Make no mistake, he’d want me to say this: He’s not with God, he’s f***ing dead. He’s not religious. So thanks for your thoughts, but he’s f***ing dead,” he repeated it for emphasis. This leaves them with no transcendent context from which to understand death or injustice. Yes, they know something about death and injustice, but beyond feeling anger and then taking the story to the public, they have no framework from which to understand it, to understand how it can be made right, or to even understand that it can be made right.

Naturally, they’re grieved over the loss of Pat. But they have no way to process their grief. Naturally, they are angry over the indignity of his death being deceitfully used for war PR and then being lied to. But they have no way to process that anger. Yes, life goes on and they seem to be coping, but still they evince the anguish of unresolved and (worse) unresolvable grief and anger.

Confused
And there’s something beyond that. They have no explanation for grief itself. After all, if human beings, including Pat, are nothing more than collocations of matter and energy – no soul, no spirit – there’s really no loss to speak of. The matter decomposes and the energy gets spent some other way, and that’s that. I’m not saying the Tillmans don’t feel legitimate pain. I’m sure they do. I’m pointing out that they have no explanation for their pain. Their pain sits at odds with their worldview.

It’s the same with their feelings of injustice. The Tillmans are angry, and rightfully so, assuming the story as told is accurate. Anger is a legitimate emotion because lying and using people – for any reason – are wrong. Again, I’m not saying their emotional reactions are illegitimate. I’m saying that they have no explanation for them. Their anger and sense of injustice also sit at odds with their worldview.

Because, according to the Darwinian paradigm, which is still the going metanarrative for all non-theistic worldviews, natural selection knows nothing of ethics or morals. It is perfectly consistent with Darwinian evolution, then, for the powerful to use the weak and then dispense with them. What happened to Pat is to be expected, really.

What’s my point in all this? The Tillmans’ very souls cry out in painful testimony to them that something is wrong, very wrong. Their emotions are pointers to God. C.S. Lewis wrote about this in Mere Christianity. He carefully explained how his arguments for atheism broke down because of, not in spite of, his sense of injustice:

 

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”

 

The grief over death proves the value of life. The sense of injustice proves the reality of justice. The darkness proves the light. Or, as you may have heard it more recently from Switchfoot, The Shadow Proves the Sunshine.

But the materialist worldview does not allow its adherents to see through to any of this. So materialists get stuck in anguish, unable to make sense of their emotions. They cannot understand. Isaiah the prophet wrote of those who’ve turned away from God. They “hope for light, but behold, darkness; For brightness, but we walk in gloom. … We stumble at midday as in the twilight, … We hope for justice, but there is none, For salvation, but it is far from us.” (Isaiah 59: 9-11)

The Beginning of Wisdom
Shadow Proves the Sunshine2There is much injustice in the world today and many, many anguished cries about what must be “done” to fix it.

But none of them will “fix” anything, if they do not begin from the right foundation, which is God, the fear of whom “is the beginning of wisdom” and the knowledge of whom “is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

2 Comments on “The Argument of the Shadows

  1. Poignant. So much of life seems like some sort of haphazard, meaningless and endless game of whack-a-mole, where sometimes you’re the whacker and sometimes you’re the mole. That is, it does without God. Ironic that I just today got an email that was along the same lines.
    God vs. Science
    “Let me explain the problem science has with religion. “The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

    ‘You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?’

    ‘Yes sir,’ the student says.

    ‘So you believe in God?’

    ‘Absolutely ‘

    ‘Is God good?’

    ‘Sure! God’s good.’

    ‘Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?’

    ‘Yes’
    ‘Are you good or evil?’

    ‘The Bible says I’m evil.’

    The professor grins knowingly. ‘Aha! The Bible! He considers for a moment. ‘Here’s one for you. Let’s say
    there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?’

    ‘Yes sir, I would.’

    ‘So you’re good…!’

    ‘I wouldn’t say that.’

    ‘But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.’

    The student does not answer, so the professor continues. ‘He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Can you answer that one?’

    The student remains silent. ‘No, you can’t, can you?’ the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. ‘Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?’

    ‘Er..yes,’ the student says.

    ‘Is Satan good?’

    The student doesn’t hesitate on this one.. ‘No.’

    ‘Then where does Satan come from?’

    The student falters. ‘From God’

    ‘That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?’

    ‘Yes, sir.’

    ‘Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?’

    ‘Yes’

    ‘So who created evil?’ The professor continued, ‘If God created everything,then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.’

    Again, the student has no answer. ‘Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?’

    The student squirms on his feet. ‘Yes.’

    ‘So who created them ?’

    The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. ‘Who created them?’ There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. ‘Tell me,’ he continues onto another student. ‘Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?’

    The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. ‘Yes, professor,
    I do.’

    The old man stops pacing. ‘Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?’

    ‘No sir. I’ve never seen Him.’

    ‘Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?’

    ‘No, sir, I have not.’

    ‘Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?’

    ‘No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.’

    ‘Yet you still believe in him?’

    ‘Yes’

    ‘According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist… What do you say to that, son?’

    ‘Nothing,’ the student replies.. ‘I only have my faith.’

    ‘Yes, faith,’ the professor repeats. ‘And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.’

    The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. ‘Professor, is there such thing as heat? ‘

    ‘ Yes.

    ‘And is there such a thing as cold?’

    ‘Yes, son, there’s cold too.’

    ‘No sir, there isn’t.’

    The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet.

    The student begins to explain. ‘You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit down to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of
    it.’

    Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

    ‘What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?’

    ‘Yes,’ the professor replies without hesitation. ‘What is night if it isn’t darkness?’

    ‘You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?’

    The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. ‘So what point are you making, young man?’

    ‘Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.’

    The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. ‘Flawed? Can you explain how?’

    ‘You are working on the premise of duality,’ the student explains. ‘You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the oncept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.’ ‘It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the
    opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.’ ‘Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?’

    ‘If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.’

    ‘Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?’ The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester,
    indeed.

    ‘Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on- going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?’

    The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided. ‘To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an
    example of what I mean.’ The student looks around the room. ‘Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?’ The class breaks out into laughter. ‘Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so… So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable
    protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.’ ‘So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?’

    Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable. Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. ‘I Guess you’ll have to take
    them on faith.’

    ‘Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,’ the student continues. ‘Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?’ Now uncertain, the professor responds, ‘Of course, there is. We see it Everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in The multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.’ To this the student replied, ‘Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.’

    The professor sat down.

    Like

  2. Interesting, John. I just read this in a review of the film Maleficent:

    “Augustine of Hippo tells us that evil is not a thing in itself: It is a hole, a corruption of something God originally wanted to be good—a twist or a tear or a blot on its original design. Darkness is the absence of light. Cold is the absence of heat.”

    And without giving away any spoliers, according to the reviewer, Maleficent the character exhibits this.

    Like

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