Hard Going and Simply Rational discuss the importance of the ‘personal pillar’ when it comes to religious belief.
Heroes of Lochs MemorialStrì an Fhearainn/The Land Struggle
(Photos: M. Caimbeul)

The third pillar
SR: This third pillar you’re on about, the personal one, what’s that all about?
HG: Well, using the metaphor of pillars or legs, something can hardly stand on two legs.
SR: Humans do …
HG: Certainly. Metaphors always break down. But imagine a high tower, it has to have a firm base, without at least three legs it’ll topple over.
SR: Okay, granted. The first two pillars were nature and the Bible. We’ve discussed these. You said the third pillar was vitally important. How?
HG: At an intellectual level, a person can be persuaded that there must be a God. Many people – famous scientists among them – are persuaded that temporal reality as we know it couldn’t just have popped into existence without a powerful intelligence behind it. Such people will often be deists, believing a deity created the universe and left it to its own devices, or pantheists, believing that all that is is God.
Deanston memorial, Isle of LewisIMGP0037
(Photos: M. Caimbeul)

Deism not enough
SR: That sounds like me …
HG: But it’s hardly enough.
SR: How do you mean?
HG: For one thing, the evidence suggests otherwise. That’s where the other two pillars come in. A study of the Bible suggests strongly the intervention of a deity in human affairs. The third pillar of personal experience confirms for the believer the existence of this deity. But, secondly, when Paul says ‘… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (NIV) we could extend that to the thought that if there is only a non-interfering deist God, it’s not much better than atheism. We can’t know anything about such a God.

Atheist rule a good thing?
SR: Exactly, humanity can shape its own destiny. We are all humanists now. What a wonderful future is in store for the human race. No more belief in a big daddy in the sky ready to strike us with thunderbolts.
HG: That, I must say is a caricature of what God really is. But hang on, what you talk about has been tried. For example, the communist regimes in the old Soviet Union and in China, and we saw the result. Human beings were treated like dirt. Millions imprisoned, killed, tortured, executed. Is that what you want?
SR: I agree, the communist experiment didn’t work. But neither is your God experiment working. States which were nominally Christian, like Great Britain itself in its imperial heyday, wreaked havoc around the world. But let’s get back to your personal experience. That’s what we’re meant to be talking about.
Memorial, to flight of Prince Charles Edward, 1746
(Photo: M. Caimbeul)

The heart of the matter
HG: I couldn’t agree more. We could talk till the cows come home about the misuse of power, about the imperium, but it would get us nowhere. The true source of all these misuses of power is the human heart in the sense that Dooyeweerd uses ‘heart’. He means ‘heart’ as it’s used in the Bible; the true centre of the individual, or the self as we might say.
SR: And …?
HG: The key fact is that only the person – and God – can know what is in her or his heart. It involves consciousness and memory of all one has been through. That is the wonder of the self that, although perhaps most of the body’s cells are renewed periodically throughout one’s lifetime, the awareness of one’s own identity remains. It’s an inner thing. And it’s precisely in that inner dimension, and the inner transformation through time, that we are aware of our relationship to God. No-one else can know that relationship but you.

Faith and the inner life
SR: As you know, I use my reason to work things out. I don’t rely on airy-fairy stuff like that. How do you know it’s not your imagination. People can imagine all kinds of things.
HG: Sure, but if you believe in the resurrection and the risen Lord, as I do, then you also believe what Paul says ‘Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.’
SR: So it’s a matter of faith?
HG: Yes, but faith in the inner life, that what your heart is telling you is correct, corroborated by evidence in the life as lived.
SR: What do mean by that?

Evidences from experience
HG: I believe very strange events that corroborate their faith happen to lots of Christians, but they’re afraid to tell of these experiences for fear of mockery from unbelievers and the raised eyebrows of believers. I’ve had many such experiences which strongly confirm my inner faith. But then, I was an agnostic like yourself and something like that had to happen to shake me out of my agnosticism. You know some of them, they’re described in this blog.
SR: These events that you describe cannot be proved, they’re anecdotal, so why bother telling them.
HG: When they happened, they were a great shock to me. They shocked me out of my complacency. I’m talking about the psychokinetic activity which appeared to be purposive. At least on one occasion there were three of us present when psychokinetic activity took place. On most other occasions, there was my wife and I. The least it proves to me is that there are dimensions to life to which we are usually oblivious.
Dalmore, Isle of Lewis
(Photo: M. Caimbeul)

The death of materialism
SR: But even if I accept you’re not lying or are deceived in some way, what relevance has these kind of things to God or his existance? Could there not be other explanations? Perhaps you had too much to drink or perhaps the human mind can move things.
HG: I don’t drink. And I find it highly implausible to suggest my mind or Margaret’s could move anything, let alone a fairly heavy picture of Christ. I could certainly not will anything to move and have never tried. These things happened spontaneously with no-one touching the objects. The main reason I’m telling you this is that, for me personally, it spells the death of materialism. And I was for most of my life a believer in naturalistic explanations.
SR: Unfortunately, there can never be any scientific evidence for such psi events.
HG: That’s where you’re wrong, my friend. There’s stacks of evidence but ‘academia’ chooses to ignore it.
SR: I’d like to hear more about that.
HG: Look up the work of the scientists Dean Radin, Charles T. Tart and Rupert Sheldrake for starters.
SR: Hm, never heard of them.