Morality, knowledge and emotions

Well, I’ve totally dropped the ball on this one. It’s been a shameful six months since your last post. Despite it weighing heavy on my mind practically every day, and despite a couple of incomplete attempts, I’ve only now found the time (and, let’s be honest, self-discipline) to properly respond. Still, assuming this blog lives on the internet in perpetuity, then statistically speaking, the vast majority of people reading this are doing so after we’ve made it to the end of Keller’s book, so for those readers at least, there has been no time lapse whatsoever between any of our posts. Huzzah!

Anyway, maybe this post can serve as a wrap-up to our discussion of Keller’s first chapter (though I do ask some questions of you, but I’ll leave it up to you whether they need to be answered now or later). And then maybe I should announce a specific date by which I’ll write about chapter 2 in order to keep myself accountable and, more importantly, in order to avoid another lengthy delay. Continue reading “Morality, knowledge and emotions”

Is religion fading – and does it matter?

Click here to read Matt’s thoughts on chapter one of Making Sense of God

First of all, to our readers: no one promised that we were going to blog our way through this book quickly. It’s pretty obvious this will be a slow (but hopefully not boring) exercise. Please be patient with us, and please take the glacial pace of these posts not as a sign of our disinterest, but as a reflection of the fact that we’re two middle-aged men with young children, busy lives, and a big blue wobbly thing called the Pacific Ocean separating us.

I’ll offer a very quick overview of how I found the chapter, mixed with a few responses to points that you made. I’ll then come back to ask you a question (which you can answer next time, or leave as a rhetorical question). Continue reading “Is religion fading – and does it matter?”

Chapter One – Isn’t Religion Going Away?

Hey Geoff,

Apologies for the lengthy hiatus as I read the first chapter. I actually read it ages ago, but then got so busy, it took me this long to finally finish writing about it.

As I read this chapter, I kept thinking that none of this matters to the question of whether or not God’s existence is a reasonable conclusion to reach from the available evidence. And in the end, Keller essentially said as much himself. But at the risk of coming across as a contrarian, I still think he oversells his point a bit by making specific claims or inferences that I feel are unjustified. Continue reading “Chapter One – Isn’t Religion Going Away?”

The Role of Our Emotions

Hey Geoff,

First, I totally accept and understand your agenda as an expression of love. Penn’s words are poignant and make a lot of sense. If I believed what you do, I hope I’d be as driven to save other people, too. So in that sense, I’m grateful that you feel as passionately as you do about this. However, I also hope that the truth-seeking goal doesn’t take too much of a backseat to the conversion goal. I do think there’s a risk of closed-mindedness if you’re so focused on an end goal that relies on a specific worldview. You still have to be open to the possibility of dropping that goal if the worldview itself turns out to be incorrect. As pointed out in the quote I used from Keller in my previous blog post, we all should be “open to critique and willing to admit flaws and problems in [our] way of looking at things.” Continue reading “The Role of Our Emotions”

The intellect and emotions: making sense of life

Hey Matt,

Thanks for a great introduction. I’m going to keep my comments on the Preface itself to a minimum (you covered it really well), and instead share a couple of general introductory thoughts as well as responding really briefly to your post.

First, let’s talk motivation for doing this whole thing. We both want to know the truth and live by it, that’s a given. But from my perspective, the things that I believe are true bring a certain level of urgency. So [full disclosure to all readers – Matt already knows this] I desperately want you to become a Christian. In fact, I want anyone who’s not a Christian and who reads this blog to become a Christian. I think Christianity is true, and I think it’s the best way to live. I think it makes the best intellectual sense and the best emotional sense of the world, of the facts of history, and of my life. And as far as I’m concerned, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Two very different experiences of eternity hang in the balance. Your response to all this isn’t just an intellectual exercise for me; I have a lot of skin in the game. And even though you don’t share the same passion, it’s worth saying from the beginning that I totally have an agenda here. I’m unashamed of the end goal, and I hope it’s seen an expression of love. Continue reading “The intellect and emotions: making sense of life”

Preface

Hey Geoff,

Well, here we go. Always a bit daunting starting a new project but I’m looking forward to reading this book with you. I read the preface a few days ago and fully intended on reading the first chapter as well before writing anything, but since I made a handful of notes, I figured this might make a nice appetizer discussion for us (and our readers). That said, a lot of my notes were questions (mainly to do with definitions of things) that pretty much got answered as I kept reading, so hopefully, this will be relatively concise.

First off, Keller mentions his ongoing discussion group in his church. I couldn’t agree more with his decision to urge everyone in that group to be “open to critique and willing to admit flaws and problems in their way of looking at things.” As humans, we’re so susceptible to a variety of cognitive biases due to our pattern-seeking brains that, if we’re not aware of the flawed ways in which we often draw our conclusions, we’re at constant risk of constructing a false reality for ourselves. It’s very natural, for instance, to instinctively shut down any argument that contradicts a long-held prior belief and then immediately rationalise why it must be wrong. As such, whenever I hear or read something that induces an emotional “what utter nonsense!” type of response in my brain, I make it a point of always stepping back and taking a moment to remember that those sorts of emotional reactions may be getting in the way of me discovering a new truth. I may not always be successful at that (I’m only human, after all), but I do try my best. Continue reading “Preface”

Welcome to ‘Does God Make Sense?’

Matt Headshot
Matt: card-carrying atheist heathen

Welcome to ‘Does God Make Sense?’ Matt and Geoff met in Sydney in 1988, and have been close friends ever since. Geoff became a Christian in 1998, and ever since has been passionately trying to persuade Matt of the truth of Christianity, and has prayed for Matt to become a follower of Jesus. Matt has (a bit less passionately) tried to persuade Geoff that atheism is the more reasonable position, and so obviously hasn’t prayed for much of anything, really. Over the last 20 years, we’ve read parts of the Bible together, attended Christian events, read Christian books, had long conversations, and exchanged a ridiculous amount of emails about life, the universe and God. It’s been a fascinating journey. We’ve been able to vigorously argue our respective positions, but always with kindness and respect. Neither has fully persuaded the other – yet.

Geoff Headshot
Geoff: card-carrying Bible-thumping Christian

These days, we also live in different countries. Matt lives in the USA, while Geoff lives in New Zealand. Since personal conversations are rare, we’ve had to find other ways of keeping the dialogue going. This blog represents our latest attempt to do that. We’re going to read through Tim Keller’s book Making Sense of God together, exchanging our insights and opinions as we go. And after flirting with this idea a few times over the years, we decided to see if our exchanges are interesting to anyone else. So come with us as we continue our discussion, explore the meaning of life, and ponder the truth about God. We’ll be writing to each other, but for a wider audience (i.e. you). We welcome your comments or questions, as long as you follow the same kind and respectful tone that we intend to maintain. And you’ll obviously get more out of reading our discussion if you also get your hands on a copy of the source material.

Keller is an evangelical Christian who really wants other people to become Christians, and he writes unashamedly to persuade people of the truth of the Bible and of Christianity. So, in a sense, we’re on Geoff’s home turf here. But the book is meant to be a springboard for discussion, not the final word. We’ll both be free to bring other books, thinkers and ideas into the discussion as we go. We hope it will be fair and interesting. Even more, we hope that the truth will become clearer and will win out. Neither of us wants to encourage belief in something that isn’t true.

What do you think? Does God make sense? If so, why? If not, why not? What makes it hard(est) for you to believe in the existence of God, or to know who / what God is? What would it take to convince you to change your mind one way or the other? We hope you’ll come back regularly, follow the discussion – and maybe even share your opinions or use this as a resource to help generate discussion with your friends. If more people are talking about the big questions of life as a result of this blog, we’d both be delighted.