Either God, the divine, the supernatural, and the transcendent exist or they do not. If they do not, then what is left is alternatively called “naturalism, physicalism, or materialism.” These are all synonyms and they imply that all that really ultimately exists are atoms and molecules. A naturalistic universe is one that can be fully described by science, at least in principle. If something cannot be measured and quantified, it is not objectively true and should be eliminated from one’s ontology, in this view.
- Naturalism is irretrievably nihilistic. If naturalism is true, then value does not exist. Value cannot be measured. And neither can beauty, love, or goodness. None of those things can be measured or even clearly defined. Quotation from Anna Karenina, Part 4, Chapter 10:
‘But,’ said Sergey Ivanovitch, smiling subtly, and addressing Karenin, ‘one must allow that to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of classical and scientific studies is a difficult task, and the question which form of education was to be preferred would not have been so quickly and conclusively decided if there had not been in favour of classical education, as you expressed it just now, its moral—disons le mot—anti-nihilist influence.’
‘If it had not been for the distinctive property of antinihilistic influence on the side of classical studies, we should have considered the subject more, have weighed the arguments on both sides,’ said Sergey Ivanovitch with a subtle smile, ‘we should have given elbow-room to both tendencies. But now we know that these little pills of classical learning possess the medicinal property of anti-nihilism, and we boldly prescribe them to our patients.… But what if they had no such medicinal property?’ he wound up humorously.
- If naturalism is true, then physical determinism is true. All physical events must be caused by some prior physical event. Given the cause, the effect must necessarily follow. Your brain is physical, thus all events in your brain have a physical cause, and these causes stretch back to when time in this universe began 13.5 billion years ago.
- If determinism is true, life has no meaning. Human beings are not agents – centers of decision-making and action – we are indistinguishable from the larger context of unstoppable physical processes, each mechanically following from the next. Consciousness is either an illusion, or irrelevant; allowing us to take note of our actions, thoughts and feelings, but not to change them.
- If determinism is true, morality does not exist. Moral responsibility only exists in the context of freedom and having choices.
- If naturalism is true, then intrinsic and extrinsic values do not exist. And once again morality does not exist. If human life, for instance, has no intrinsic value, then preserving the lives of human beings has no value either. Science can determine that something is potentially “useful” but naturalism has no way of explaining or even pointing to intrinsic value – something having value in and of itself. Without an end having intrinsic value, then extrinsic value does not exist either. Glue for sticking toe-nails to computer monitors is not useful because the end is not valuable.
- If naturalism is true, then there is no afterlife and everything you have learned and experienced on earth will vanish when you die. You may pass on something to the next generation, but eventually the whole universe will cease to exist either through the Big Crunch, or through endless expansion leading to heat death. When that time comes, every accomplishment, novel, piece of music, artwork, profound thought will also cease to exist and we will be back to nothing once again. And, by the way, for naturalism every work of fiction is nothing but lies. Science and only science is the locus of truth.
- If naturalism is true, then creativity does not exist. We are all robots inextricably following our programming.
Berdyaev’s Christianity posits meonic (nonbeing) Freedom as primary. Every living, conscious creature, including plants, has access to this acausal Great Mystery on the inside. Creativity takes from the unknown mystery and produces the visible and known. Even scientific discoveries partake in this creativity. This unknowable, primordial Freedom which we have access to subjectively, from the inside, makes each of us unfathomably deep and a mystery to ourselves and to others. This Freedom is supernatural, and it is a part of God. God the Logos, God the Father emerges from this meonic Freedom as His precondition. For without it, He could not be creative, nor could He love. And we, His creation and His beloved, cause Him to exist. There is no creation without the created. There is no love without the loved one.
Literature, paintings, and plays intuitively give some kind of access to this Mystery, which Berdyaev sometimes identifies with Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian God consists of Holy Ghost, Father, and Son. Thus, part of God is utterly mysterious and unknowable. Part is the “Father” and can interact with us through prayer, and part is the Son, where God voluntarily took upon Himself the suffering of man. Adam is the first man, and Christ is Man Transfigured.
God and the divine are intrinsically good, sacred and holy, and they pass on these qualities to their creatures. We are made in the image and likeness of God and we are called upon to creatively respond to God. He is waiting for our answer to the gift of creativeness that our connection to Him has bestowed. He is not there to punish or judge, but to join us in loving, voluntary communion if we choose. And we are to join in loving communion with our neighbor, but again, only if we choose to. It is only through creativity and communion that we come to resemble more fully God Himself.