What is it that motivates you? What is it that gives your life meaning and purpose? Is it simply the chemicals and biological material that make up your body, or is it more than that? Is it something that makes no sense in a purely physical world? My friend Tim’s story not only defies the odds; it defies the Naturalistic paradigm we all have been told to accept.
Tim is a physical therapist and a triathlete. The guy is not only in the best physical condition of most anyone I know, he helps fix other people who are trying to get that way. More importantly, Tim is a husband and father who loves his family deeply because he loves his God sincerely. Six weeks ago Tim felt lousy after returning from a bike ride. He was anxious about work and moving to a new house so he attributed his worn out feeling to the stressors in his life. He was tired and weak. The next day he was feeling even more out of sorts. His wife told him to go for a run. Afterward he felt worse. That night he contracted a fever with a temperature of 104.5. The next day he went to the doctor who gave him some antibiotics and drew some blood. Three days later Tim was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
Many of us may have fallen into depression and asked, “Why me?” when things haven’t gone our way. Tim didn’t have time for that. For several days he was mentally and physically incapacitated, coping with severe pain, an incessant cough, and nausea. His body was being destroyed from the inside out. He was miserable. He felt like he was being poked and prodded by every doctor and nurse who happened to pass by his door. At one point a doctor sat by the side of his bed discussing the treatment plans and protocols that were in store for him. That was fine … until she began to rattle off a string of percentages about how many people make it through this course or that, and their survival rates at each stage of treatment. Tim had had enough. He leaned forward and, with a piercing determination in his voice said, “I don’t care about all your statistics. Just tell me what I need to do. I’m going to beat this thing.”
A few days later, still reeling from the chemotherapy that was racking his entire system, and with blood counts that had all dropped to near zero, his wife Missy arrived at the hospital to visit him only to find his room empty. She asked the nurse if he had been taken somewhere. No, he hadn’t.
Now Missy was getting anxious. She began searching the hallway knowing that Tim hated being trapped in his hospital bed; thinking he went beyond wanting to move around a little and was trying to escape. As she walked a frantically down the hallway, she began to hear a rhythmic squeaking sound emanating from a room up ahead. Missy approached the door and peaked into an area she hadn’t seen before. There was Tim, his blue hospital gown draped over his pumping legs. Next to him stood a drip stand from which intravenous medicine flowed through tubes connected to his neck. Tim was peddling a stationary bike for all he was worth.
Six weeks later Tim was in remission.
Tim’s story is not only remarkable; it also has everything to do with the issues that True Horizon exists to address. Yes, Tim’s caregivers were brilliant people. The science behind their ability to diagnose and treat him is beyond what most of us can comprehend. That is not debatable. God equips us with the intelligence and reasoning capacities that allow us to discover things like chemotherapy and we have every obligation to use them. But many receive the same treatment from the same doctors and don’t make anywhere near the progress Tim did. What’s the difference?
The difference is that Tim got on the bike.
Naturalists would describe Tim’s powerfully positive actions in evolutionary terms as some demonstration of the will to survive. No doubt, there is something to that. But Naturalists have no way to understand the origin of such a thing. Every action must be understood to be the result of a relentless deterministic process, beginning with the accidental emergence of first life, and continuing toward a purposeless end. To the Naturalist, Tim’s motivation is a consequence of the “survival of the fittest” mechanism that drives those who best adapt to the environment by obtaining a competitive advantage over evolutionary challengers. But there is more to the story. Tim’s attitude is what got him on that bike and kept him there.
Attitude is a state of mind – a mental inclination. But what are states of mind or mental capacities? Surely they are not things that can be physically weighed or measured, or touched, or seen, or heard … In other words, they are not things for which the Naturalist can provide an explanation. The Naturalist would not even allow that they are real. Any such explanation requires that these non-physical thoughts somehow “emerged” from the physical world. But to someone who denies the existence of non-physical reality, it seems incoherent to say that non-existent, non-physical entities could emerge from physical matter.
The question of non-physical reality exposes Naturalism’s most glaring deficiency. The physical world cannot in itself explain Tim’s attitude.
C. S. Lewis talked of the joy he got as a boy from hearing and reading children’s stories that piqued his imagination. He described those experiences as a thrill that, later in life:
“had produced a longing … which had flowed over from the mind and seemed to involve the whole body. That walk I now remembered. It seemed to me that I had tasted heaven then. If only such a moment could return! But what I never realized was that it had returned – that the remembering of that walk was itself a new experience of just the same kind. True, it was desire, not possession. But then what I had felt on the walk had also been desire, and only possession in so far as that kind of desire is itself desirable, is the fullest possession we can know on earth; or rather, because the very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.”
Lewis, in his “argument from desire” for the existence of God, claimed that our sense of holiness and the desire for joy itself exposes the reality of the supernatural – of a non-physical, spiritual reality to which his early experiences had been pointing. As Louis Markos points out in his book, Lewis Agonistes, the fact that “he [Lewis] continually desired something that the natural world could not supply suggested that another, supernatural one existed that was the origin of his desire.”
I think Tim might tell you that his desire – his longing for the joy that is rooted in his God and that he shares with his wife and kids – was the source for the attitude that got him on the bike. The joy of worshipping his Creator; the joy he experiences with his family, and that he embraces for life itself – each of these gave Tim a peace that passed all understanding. Tim had attitude, and hope, and the power of love on his side. Those are what got him Tim on the bike and those are manifestations of a reality that has no explanation in a purely physical world.