|Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza, Albert Einstein, and Carl Sagan|
‘An atheist has to know a lot more than I know.
An atheist is someone who knows there is no god.
By some definitions atheism is very stupid.’
Carl Sagan was a brilliant mind, on a par with Albert Einstein and Benedict Spinoza, both fellow Jews and skeptic/believers. The God that Sagan and these other great men believed in is not the God most religious Christians and Jews believe in. One could almost say that they didn't believe in God at all, but that wouldn’t be quite true either. Belief and unbelief are wild cards.
Sagan claimed he was an agnostic, one who ‘doesn't know.’ This is hardly different from the believing Christian who is honest and can say, as many have said, it is hardly within the realm of humanity's capacity to know what God is, only perhaps what He is not. This approach has a place in historic (as opposed to fundamentalist) Christianity. It’s called apophatic theology.
What Sagan and many other great thinkers have missed is the fact that the God who is, and of whom we may know almost nothing FACTUALLY, did make Himself known to us ACTUALLY, by the things He did and by His teachings, when He appeared as one of us, the man Jesus Christ.
That man might have been anyone, and His words and deeds might have no more importance or power than those of any other religious figure, except for one ACT which is also a FACT: He was put to death, and rose from the dead to die no more.
This event was not some trick played on His contemporaries and on us. If that FACT is historical, then everything else about Him, down to His miracles, and even His virgin birth, and finally, His identity with the Divine Nature as the incarnation of the Logos, is also FACTUAL as well as ACTUAL.
This intrusion into His creation by the otherwise Unseen and Unknowable God has made Him visible and knowable in the only way possible for our species. Yet, to recognize Him is not a function of the intellect, and those who measure the universe by the limitations imposed by the human mind will never find Him.
(For those who may be reading whose mother tongue is not English, and who may be using machine translation, and even for those who are native English speakers, I am using the word pairs FACTUAL/ACTUAL and FACT/ACT in a very specialized sense, which a dictionary won’t find for you.
In my theology, ‘fact’ and ‘factual’ refer to what God has ‘made,’ that is, what can be measured and inspected by the scientific method. They also refer to real, documentable history. They are what most people (imprecisely) call ‘objective’ knowledge.
On the other hand, ‘act’ and ‘actual’ refer to what God ‘does,’ that is, what is really going on ‘behind the scenes,’ so to speak, but cannot be subjected to scientific or historical examination. They are what most people (often prejudicially) call ‘subjective’ knowledge.)