In all my years as a Christian, I have met only one person who was argued into the faith. "It was between Buddhism and Christianity," he told me, "and Christianity had the best explanation." But many of us need more. Something in the Christian story resonates deep within, as it connects to one or more of our heart's longings and satisfies them in a way nothing else can. In Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith (IVP Academic), Clifford Williams calls these "existential needs," and he says we all have them whether we know it or not.
Some of these existential needs are self-directed, and some are directed toward others. For example, we need to love and be loved; to do good things and delight in the goodness of others; to feel cosmic security and expand the realm of justice; to receive forgiveness when we lose our way and admire those who tread morally praiseworthy paths; to absorb the beauty of nature and connect with those we love. We need to feel like our lives have meaning here and now, but we also need the hope of living beyond the grave. And we need to know that in heaven we'll finally be free from this life's problems. What Williams calls the existential argument claims that belief in God is justified because it satisfies these needs.
At this point, some Christian apologists will squirm. For them, reason is the best way to justify belief in God. Emotions are fickle and unpredictable. They can blind us to the truth or disrupt our commitment to our deepest values.
But Williams doesn't abdicate reason altogether. After all, he teaches philosophy at Trinity College (in Deerfield, Illinois). Instead, Williams argues that emotional ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.