Friday, November 28, 2014

Looking for God

Patrick Masterson
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Another lecture in the excellent Patrick Finn Lecture Series in St. Mary's church, Haddington Road, Dublin.

This time it was Emeritus Philosophy Professor Patrick Masterson "Looking for God - a philosophical journey".

He warned us he was not going to give a dry philosophical lecture which we could find on the internet any day of the week. This would be an account of his own philosophical journey in search of God.

Not that he hadn't started out without God in the first place. He was always a believer. This was a philosophical quest to see how close to God we could get through philosophy alone.

He confessed a youthful preference for Acquinas but brought us on a journey in the company of some of the acknowledged philosophers and with the triple compass of metaphysics, existential phenomenology and theology.

They all brought us to the edge of the cliff and posited something beyond.

Masterson then looked at the attributes this overarching "being" would need to have and among other things came up with "infinite goodness".

I think that is where he lost me.

I was raised a Roman Catholic but would now class myself as an unbeliever/agnostic, but with loads of baggage. Separating out the baggage from the rest is not an easy, if not an impossible, task. So it might have been more a question of me losing him than him losing me. But I did detect an unwarranted jump at the end of the journey and didn't quite get a answer to my question.

However, it was a very stimulating and impressive lecture and one of the things that impressed me was that this man, with a whack of experience behind him and a string of qualifications after his name, had the grace and humility to admit it when he didn't know something. Full marks there.

I had a feeling that he was on two parallel journeys here. A philosophical quest and a personal search. And it was very difficult to disentangle them.

He was clearly in a very personal realm when he spoke of his wife who recently died. He felt in his heart and soul that she still existed beyond the mere memory of her. And that was quite evident in the wave of emotion that hit him at this point in his talk. So his quest to define his own set of personal beliefs, in a God and in an afterlife, has clearly been a success, if an evolving one.

The less personal and more academic quest for God seems to me to be still ongoing and may well stretch into that infinity where the conflict between infinite attributes will go on forever.

Incidentally, St. Mary's is currently celebrating its 175th anniversary. You should check it out. It is a beautiful church with many unique features and the lecture series is innovative, top quality, and a fitting tribute to the PP Patrick Flynn (RIP) who initiated and developed it.

1 comment:

Karen Doherty said...

I have found in my up-and-down, yearning but resistant, quests for God the best two things to have in hand are a good healthy Doubt, and a sense of humor. Also, the ability to regain your footing after God has gob-smacked you a couple of times.

Be well. Always sending good thoughts your way. Karen