Christianity Worth Thinking About
Do Immaterial Things Exist?
September 11, 1994
|Part of my conversation earlier with Shannon had to do with
how do we discover the nature of the universe? How can we learn some
things about the nature of the universe? Of course, one of the responses
would be to test it empirically. From the experience of our empirical
tests we may draw what I would consider the false conclusion that we can't
have genuine knowledge if it can't be tested empirically, in other words,
with the five senses-- through scientific method, for example. It seems to
me that there are a whole wealth of things that we know and we haven't
learned them from empirically inquiry.
In a talk I gave this morning I talked about the nature of moral law. I
offered what I thought was a clear-case example of a moral truth, that
truth being that torturing babies just for the pure fun of it is immoral.
I didn't defend the notion, though some might challenge it by saying,
"Well, there are people who have tortured babies just for the fun of
it," but it doesn't disprove the moral law because you have people
who violate it. All that does is point out that there are people who are
evil that can violate the law. It doesn't seem to indicate that the law
doesn't exist. In fact, if some moral law doesn't exist, then you can't
even call a person evil because what an evil person is, is a person who
consistently and persistently violates a moral law. So, if you believe
that there is such a thing called evil, which is the violation of a moral
law, then there must be some moral law. And all you need is one moral law
to make the case that I'm about to make.
In fact, if some moral law doesn't exist, then you
can't even call a person evil because what an evil person is, is a person
who consistently and persistently violates a moral law.
|Maybe it isn't obvious
to you that torturing babies just for the joy of it is immoral, and if you
would say that then I don't think that you have a different morality, I
think something is wrong with you. You are a couple sandwiches short of a
picnic. You are missing some parts. You ought to get help, frankly,
because there are some things that are just obvious. Forcible rape is
wrong. That strikes me as rather obvious, and that's why we say people who
are rapists are evil people.
Now, both of those statements are dependent on the fact of the
existence of a moral law. Now, I'm kind of going on the assumption that
you agree that there is at least some moral law out there. One of those
two illustrations was patently obvious or maybe something else that you
can think of, like mercy is a virtue, or kindness is good. These are moral
statements and they reflect a law that is real.
The next point is, if we are agreed that this thing exists, my question
is, where is it? Well, it's clear that it's not the kind of thing that
you'll bump into if you hurry around the corner sometime. It doesn't
extend in space. It doesn't weigh anything. It doesn't have a taste or a
smell to it, it doesn't have any shape. It exists, but it is somewhere
else other than the physical world. In other words, it exists in the
non-physical realm. Now, if you are convinced that some things are wrong,
that there is something evil, that torturing babies for fun is a
despicable moral thing, then what you've done is you've said, "I
believe that something exists that I can't see, I can't touch, I can't
taste, I can't hear, I can't smell." In other words, you believe in
the existence of something that is not empirically testable and science
can't get at.
Once you acknowledge that, that opens up a whole new world to you
because you know what? There are a lot of things there. There are a lot of
things in that world. Ideas are in that world. Concepts. Numbers. Laws of
rationality, in addition to all moral things. Language is in that world,
and meaning. All of these things are in that world. As a matter of fact,
if you think about it, everything that is important to you is in that
Let me ask you a question. What's important to you? Tell me something
that is really important. A lot of people would just say love. Love or
friendship. Or you get someone who is really selfish and he'll say my
happiness is really important. Okay. How much does happiness weigh? That's
a fair question because if a thing is physical it has weight. If it is in
the physical world, it is physical and has weight. Happiness doesn't weigh
anything so it is not physical. It can't be tested physically.
The things that are most important to us don't exist in
the physical world, but they really do exist.
though, what we've just said. Not only are there things in the non-
physical world, but go ahead and list all of the things that are most
important to you. Happiness, love, friendship, education, knowledge,
ideas, virtues of all sorts. All of those things are not physical. The
things that are most important to us don't exist in the physical world,
but they really do exist.
Well, I'll tell you what else is in this world. There are a lot of fun
things in that world, too. Sex is in that world. It is. Well, wait a
minute, you say, sex is physical. That's one thing I know is physical. No,
it's not. Think of this. Is it sexual, men, to kiss your wife? Yes, it is.
Is it sexual to kiss another man? Give me a break, that's gross, many of
you would say. Wait a minute. Aren't lips just lips? If sex was entirely
physical it wouldn't matter which physical lips you touched because if it
was just lips touching lips it wouldn't matter the sex you were kissing.
It would be equally arousing. No, sex is different. Sex is not physical.
Sex is non-physical at its essence. It expresses itself physically. I'm
not saying that it has nothing to do with physical elements, but it
incorporates physical elements on the basis of other concepts like beauty
and sexuality and that which appeals to you. Those are all non-physical.
This non-physical world is populated with all kinds of fun things and
interesting things and it's populated with everything that is ultimately
You know what else is in that world? God is in that world. God is in
that world and people have a hard time sometimes when you talk about God
because they say, "I can't see Him, I can't smell Him, I can't taste
Him. He's not an empirical reality." And my response is, so what?
Just because you can't test Him scientifically doesn't mean He doesn't
exist because the fact is, you would have to acknowledge that everything
that is really ultimately important to you is the same as God. It exists
in a world that can't be tested by the physical sciences, yet it is real
and it shows up in the physical world at different times. God is like
that. Now that doesn't prove that God does exist, but the idea of God, the
existence of God is much more akin to things that you really believe in
than you may have thought before now.
Think about that.
||This is a transcript of a commentary
from the radio
show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory
Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful
giving of those who support Stand to Reason.
" Do Immaterial
Things Exist? "
©1994 Gregory Koukl
Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only
Stand To Reason, 1-800-2-REASON
Posted: Aug 24, 1996