We live by second opinions
“Madam,” said the doctor, “you’re simply too fat.”
“Too fat,” she retorted, “I want a second opinion!”
“I’ll save you the trouble,” said the doctor. “You also look like hell.”
To the degree that we are self-aware, we all live by second opinions. We second-guess everything. Best thing about us.
I taught religion and philosophy for over forty years and it is often said normal humans have thoughts, philosophers live by second thoughts – we just won’t take “yes” for an answer.
In religion the game goes on between the heart and the head. The heart proclaims “I believe, I feel, I know,” and the head murmurs, “You sure?” The heart says, “My intentions were the very best.” And the head recites, “The way to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Do you see why Plato wrote in the form of two-voice dialogue? Only self-transcendent beings can hold such conversation with themselves. The irony is that it is this, our most godlike capacity, which keeps us from the dead end of absolute certainty.
President Harry Truman once said, “The deepest questions of life can’t be answered but have to be decided…”
Is there a God?
Is death final?
Can you love enemies and survive?
Many of us think that faith is a feeling that comes over us like, maybe, spring fever. But no, it is a decision, a daring decision! Your will makes the decision. Faith is not based on either thought or feeling but will power.
Moses leading the Exodus, Jesus facing the cross were not being led by thought or feeling, but decision. How does the old spiritual go: “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turnin’ back, no turnin’ back.”
In the posthumously published letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta she confesses she had not felt the certain presence of Jesus for decades, nor did her lonely ministry in India make much rational sense but she was simply following orders. See? Will power. Jesus never said feel me or think about me (which have lead to our mushy church). No, what he said was follow me!
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey,” runs the hymn of my childhood.
About 18 inches separates your trusting heart and your questioning head. For heaven’s sake don’t miss the Kingdom of God by 18 inches!
Before public audiences I often present myself as a “recovering Methodist” and what I’m trying to recover is our founder John Wesley who saw the life of his members as a mingling of grace and self-discipline. He wanted us to live methodically or decisively, hence “Methodist.”
Permit one last personal word: I am often asked, just what do philosophers of religion really do? Well, you’ve been reading it for whatsoever many minutes it has taken you to read this, and thank you.