In my prior post I told of my conversation with Melanie the agnostic, and how she’d gotten a bit miffed at me for something I’d said.
Spiritual conversation is an imperfect art for me, I admit.
Melanie’s main claim was that her lack of belief in God was not her fault. Philosophers call this “inculpable nonbelief” — that is, non-belief for which a person is not responsible.
But I wonder whether there is such a thing as this “no-fault” unbelief. Well, maybe so, for persons who’ve never even heard of a Creator-God or the message of Jesus Christ.*
But in Melanie’s case I was struggling to sympathize. She has as much access to the full revelation of God as anyone. Maybe more. After all, she has the advantage of a Christian upbringing.
I said to her that the one thing the God of the Bible doesn’t provide (or rarely provides) is proof.
You can’t make God perform miracles to prove himself. He’s not a genie in a lamp.
But what God will provide and always provides are clues. Signs. The philosophical phrase is “signals of transcendence.”
Included here are traditional methods of revelation such as the beauty and order of nature (Romans 1), the obligations felt by conscience (Romans 2); the Incarnation,** Scripture and the Church.
These items are supplemented in our lives by smallish clues of God’s presence such as answered prayer, healings, acts of kindness from others, provision of food and shelter, and the hundred little happy coincidences that seem to occur when our hearts are soft and open to God.
Someone has said, “The more I pray, the more coincidences happen.”
Melanie looked at me skeptically. She shook her head. No. Not good enough. All these things can be explained away, she insisted.
“But if God proved himself to you,” I said, “you’d be forced to believe. Melanie, this isn’t merely about intellectual belief. God desires a love relationship with us. Love cannot be forced.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” she asked desperately. She was nearly in tears. “I can’t make myself believe.”
* * *
In my next post: The conclusion of the conversation.
* “No-fault” unbelief: Keep in mind, however, that Paul says in Romans 1:20 that God’s revelation in nature is available to all, so that they are “without excuse.”
**Incarnation is the theological term for God-in-the-flesh: Jesus Christ.
Photo courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Love her questions and your responses. Makes one wonder if these questions, thoughts and thinking is what “Christians” often struggle with too. The complacency of ones thoughts and thinking could truly drive one to think that God isn’t there, I noticed she or you do not mention the Holy Spirit. Is that on purpose?
Thanks, Bob. I agree with your thought that Christians struggle with these questions as well.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Part 3 and indirectly in Part 5 (“a move of God”).
“To seek truth is to admit doubt. To obtain truth is to render faith superfluous.” A.W. Tozer.
The problem requiring signs and wonders is (1) the position of my heart and (2) the expiration of the miraculous. (3) The denial of history and (4) the reversal of roles with God.
(1) God is not my magic genie who dances to my needs. When I approach him with a requirement that He prove himself I am assuming he needs my belief. That is backward thinking. I need my belief to be fulfilled in Him. God treasures faith and bestows priceless gifts on those who embrace it. There is ample evidence to satisfy even the most skeptical but honest seeker.
(2) When God delivered mana to the Jews in the desert, it was an amazing miracle. The next day it was a thankful miracle. Then next day it was a pleasant surprise. The next day it was commonplace. And finally it became an entitlement. The miraculous expires. Faith is the miracle we deliver to God.
(3) God bestowed on his chosen people, the Jews, an obsession to carry forth His word accurately. There is ample proof of this archaeologically. He sent his Son into the world. Jesus lived, taught, loved, worked his miracles, was persecuted, tried, convicted and died in the sight of his friends AND enemies alike. Those who were highly motivated to discredit him had his ministry contained lies were not able to do so. The testimony to his life was further reaffirmed in the persecution and deaths of his inner circle. Who would do this for a lie?
(4) When Satan tempted Adam and Eve – their sin was to walk away from listening to God and to begin to use their G-d-given intellect to decide what was good and bad. The thought that God needs to perform a miracle for me personally is directly connected with that thought. You can use your intellect to “disprove” God or you can use it to examine the evidence of his existence.
(5) When you declare there is no God, you are also declaring there is no such thing as Good nor Evil. Without a moral law giver, there is no moral law. Without a moral law the concepts of good and evil become arbitrary and the world becomes a place where life is cheap and existence is meaningless. Kinda like our world appears today………
A lot to think about there, Bruce. Thanks for your comments. I often mention to students that we must approach God on his terms, submitting to his revelation, his way of doing business, rather than expecting him to “perform” for us on our terms. I think that is one of the main things you are getting at.