The Corner

Derb and God

I really admired the candor and clarity of Derb’s analysis of his relation to God over the years, and now. Quietly, beautifully, delicately done. His account was perfectly convincing, and rang quite true. His capacity for understated self-analysis is quite remarkable. At some points, he prompted me to certain counter-observations. If I could state those as well as he states his views, it might be worth continuing the conversation. Can’t get back to this for about a week though — a very busy time, and then the excitement of the election next week.

One line of thought is that the default position for a great many Christians, and not only in our own time, is a sort of Deism, just below the level of explicitness. In other words, Derb is onto something quite real, and widespread. In a book on atheism which I reviewed some years ago, the author claimed that something like seventy percent (or more) of Americans who call themselves atheists in fact believe in some sort of impersonal god — in a kind of deism.

This may not be the God of Newton or Leibniz — not the God of the scientists — but it does have some kinship with the God of Cicero and others of the Latin and Greek “ancients.” In other words, in a pre-modern sense, “the God of the philosophers.” Still with a sense of mystery and awe, and that sort of inner communication between conscience and the divine which Derb says he catches glimpse of from time to time: the two “poles” of consciousness.” I liked his analysis here very much.

Michael Novak was a Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat.

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