The Great Things of the Gospel
The argument proceeds thus: You see a truck coming down the road, and you immediately and unreflectively believe there is a truck coming down the road. You do not have to debate it with yourself, you do not furnish an argument or even a single intermediate thought. You go straight from seeing to believing, because this is a properly basic belief, delivered by your senses.
Similarly, when one hears of the greatness of God, detects a purpose behind certain occurrences, or learns of salvation by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, he might (quite rationally) go straight from hearing to believing, because this is a properly basic belief, delivered by the sensus divinitatis. Now, the objection is that many do not reach this conclusion, therefore it is not an authentic way of knowing God.First, the objection assumes that God would not or could not, nevertheless, instill a sensus divinitatis. But we have already seen that God could; as to whether He would, that may be more than we can claim without some higher testimony.Very well, but it may be a faulty function, some cognitive faculty is broken. This, of course, assumes that the claims of the Gospel are false, rather than true. They may be false – but then it is astonishing how many people, across the globe and throughout time, have accepted them as true. There develops a stark line over which people sort themselves, between those who think rightly (not believing) and those who are delusional (believing).Or, if they really are true, and the opposite conclusion is reached. That is, those who believe are the rational ones, whose sensus divinitatis is working properly. And it would turn out that those who do not believe are lacking, that they are cognitively deficient. Of course this is not an epithet – it must be applied to one side or the other, depending on the truth of the matter.The appeal to the soul is this: What is your honest, naked response to the Creed? What does your soul say, when you hear such things as…I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth…I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God…God from God, light from light, true God from true God…For us men* and our salvation, he came down from Heaven…for our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again…I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.Perhaps nothing. We do not need to put on as though something is true when it does not seem so.But if your soul whispers, or says something; if you notice a tremor of hope, a first pang of joy; if, though weary, your soul nevertheless is roused by such simple, unadorned sentences – well maybe your sense of the divine is delivering properly basic beliefs after all.I confess, I am more reliably moved to tears by the Creed than by any song, than by any direct appeal to my emotions. Any given Sunday I will begin reciting the Creed and be unable to finish. Consider the conjunction of “…born of the Father before all ages…” and “…he was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” You and I are men. Think how maligned masculinity is, our very nature is, in our days. Think how awful some men have been; think what flaws and evils we ourselves are guilty of.Why would a perfect God deign to join us? Why would he take on this corruptible nature, doomed to derision and failure, capable of inflicting pain and being afflicted? Why come down from a high place, from glory, and offer up His life for humiliation and death?Of course the heart and the soul are distinct but not unconnected. And so my soul delivers these beliefs to my heart, and my heart is crushed. This is the measure of His love, that God would become man, that He would give up the perfection of all things to know our imperfection, our vulnerability, our miserable condition. He could have spoken redemption, but he let it be bled out of him instead. And like a stone of great worth, it is only one way to look at the love of God; turn it just a little, and another brilliant facet casts a new light.
*This, of course, is meant to refer to men and women. The ancients did not share our scruples with language.