William Lane Craig is commonly regarded as perhaps the greatest living apologist for evangelical Christianity. In responding to a letter here that he received from a philosophical atheist who complained, “You've Ruined My Life, Professor Craig!!”, Craig says something quite extraordinary. Part of his advice to the unhappy atheist is to "Seek experiences that put you in touch with the transcendent."
Here is the full text of that part of his response,
Seek experiences that put you in touch with the transcendent. You need to escape the cloying bonds of naturalism by catching glimpses of a transcendent reality beyond the material world. This will help to prepare your heart for belief in God. So open yourself to experiences of sublime beauty. Listen to Schumann’s Träumerei, to Dvorak’s New World Symphony, to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and so on. And when I say “listen,” I don’t mean to have it playing in the background while you go about your tasks. I mean to set all else aside for an allotted time, close your eyes, and just focus on listening to the music. Watch a video of ballroom champions Jonathan Crossley and Lyn Marriner performing a waltz or slow foxtrot. Drink in the stunning beauty of their performance. Watch a sunrise or sunset over a beautiful landscape or take in the beauty of pristine nature. Such beauty can sometimes produce an almost painful ache in us because of our inability to take it all in.
Sound advice and well said, Dr. Craig.
I'm surrounded by many engineers, a significant portion of whom are evangelical Christians. I find the lack of an appreciation of the transcendent to be an all-too-common shortcoming in the worldview of many of them. With a propensity to always try and reduce reality to physics analysis and mathematical computation, they are prone to miss the exquisite joy of embracing incredible transcendent beauty. The marvelous ability to experience and appreciate transcendent beauty is a privilege accorded only to humans (as far as we know); indeed it must be part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Experiencing the transcendent is a vital part of knowing God who Himself is both immanent and simultaneously transcendent with respect to creation.
I can admire something like Michelangelo's marble sculpture of the Pieta for the great technical skill required to produce it (shown below and completed by the artist at the astonishing age of 24, it is regarded as unprecedented in Italian sculpture). But it is only when viewing it as a transcendent experience, that I come into full appreciation of its exquisite, breath-taking beauty.
An engineer can appreciate the mathematical complexity and technical skill required to design and build a Boeing 747. But it requires one with some degree of awareness of a reality beyond the physical world, to grasp the transcendent beauty of it in flight. Marriage can be explained and dissected from the physical and cultural perspective by a trained counselor; but it is ultimately the transcendent qualities of the marital union between man and woman that impart rapturous wonder.
Someone who ignores the transcendent and tries to reduce everything to physical immanence is akin to a person experiencing life through a black/white, vacuum-tube 12 inch television set. They are necessarily restricted in their comprehension and appreciation of reality. In comparison, the person who also cultivates an appreciation for the transcendent, experiences life in a mind-blowing, digital IMAX theater with full surround sound.
In my personal walk through life, the closer I draw to Christ, the more appreciative (and awestruck) I am by the transcendent beauty of a single flower, clouds flitting across a dark blue sky, a butterfly, an eagle soaring on a mountain ridge, a school of fish, a horse at full gallop, a world-class symphony, a master's painting, a rainbow, a powerful thunderstorm ... or a championship couple elegantly moving as one across the dance floor. It's important that all Christians dedicate some part of their lives to regularly embracing transcendent beauty. In so doing, we figuratively reach out and touch the Divine. I exist as a rational and logical being, but I thrive on my experiences with the transcendent.