“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Christ calls us ‘evil,’ but capable, on occasion, of giving good gifts, of doing good. How many of us know happy, sensitive, articulate agnostics who make better dinner conversation, and are more generous hosts, than some of the believers we know? It seems to be a feature of the created universe: we’re selfish, self-seeking bastards by nature, but some good pokes through, even among those who make no profession of faith, among those who have never been bothered to pry beneath the layers of superstition and bad intellectual fashion they regard as Christianity. Were they to see a child asking for a fish stick only to be rewarded with a poisonous reptile, their sense of justice would strike. They would clutch away the innocent in their arms, or feel the shame of their cowardice forever.

From where did that flicker of virtue spring? UNICEF? Quiet contemplations on Charles Darwin? The afterglow from a Richard Attenborough film?

It feels absurd, of course, to speculate in that contemporary vein. We’re observing something very ancient, very deep in our souls. God is either waking that up in us, out of our dead and temporary flesh, or He’s abandoning us to a reprobate isolation. The spark isn’t proof that truth exists outside of God. The spark is the glinting filament, cast up in the air from the Creator’s hammer.  The great, eternal, roaring fire burns on at a distance, and we see it dimly, in specks of burning, bright truth, in moments of improbable kindness and bravery.  A girl stands on the sidewalk, clenching her teeth, fighting back the tears, and she says to herself: “I’m keeping this baby.”

We feel the warmth of the fire, but we don’t always know from where it comes.