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.

 

One thought on “Welcome to ‘Does God Make Sense?’

  1. This blog is a great idea. I’m not convinced by any religion, nor of theism, but I deeply want a loving and all powerful God to exist, and to have revealed ‘himself’ in history, and I believe it’s possibly true. In my opinion, life is so much more meaningful if love is something eternal and genuine that we partake in, rather than a mere survival-driven accident of nature. If there is some greater context to the seeming chaos, cruelty, and ethical uncertainty in this world, that makes a big difference too. And if the Creator and Sustainer of my heart and all things exists, then I want to have a humble connection with him. For so many reasons, this has to be in the context of being honest with myself.

    I grew up deeply within Christianity, but I left the church after encountering the Orthodox Jewish idea that if Jesus (or any other human or thing) isn’t God, then worshiping him is idolatry… essentially unfaithfulness to God, and an obscuring of truth. I hadn’t previously realised the implications of potentially being wrong, so I listened carefully to the ideas of my Jewish friends. I found that the Torah is so clear about this command to only worship God that for me to accept an incarnation claim about Jesus being God and worthy of worship, there would need to be not only a lot of evidence…but it would need to be absolutely clear and without any other reasonable alternative explanation in sight. So although there are some compelling arguments for Christianity, I don’t think they actually meet the bar of not needing any leap of faith at all, which the Israelite faith context requires.

    I don’t think that the traditional Christian proof texts really do prove from prophecy that Jesus is the promised restorer of the kingdom. As to an incarnation claim, in my reading the Hebrew scriptures don’t set their audience up to accept something like that at all. Unlike the role of a prophet, which is given a clear set of instructions for being identified, there is nothing like that for recognising God incarnate, although the stakes are so much higher and as I said, the warnings against getting it wrong (whether deliberately or by being led astray) are much higher. And there are numerous descriptions of ALL things in the heavens, earth and sea being God’s creations, as well as the messiah being described in the terms of another entity beside God. None of these verses directly disprove Christianity, but they don’t give the impression that worshiping a human is ever going to be on the cards. And yet the very early church doesn’t even seem to have clearly discussed this extremely important topic, even though if they were doing it they would have needed utter clarity. So I definitely can’t worship him, or stand under the umbrella of the church, without having the certainty I once had. Asking these questions and leaving that amazing community is one of the most frightening and painful things I’ve ever done, and I still feel the loss of closeness to some of my old circles of friends, but I felt morally compelled to.

    As to Judaism I am less clear. There are many things in Torah that I love and some things I don’t like at all. There are some things that incline me to take it seriously and others that make it seem less likely, and I’ve found no concrete proof either way. But I have found that contrary to what I learnt in church, this isn’t a legalistic religion and just like I value the good things in my Christian upbringing, I value many of the things I’ve learnt with this community.

    The deepest question for me is whether the ‘uncaused cause’ of all existence is personal and willfully designed all that exists. Intuitively I would say that yes, for something eternal to set a temporal realm in motion seems like conscious will and design, because it is unforced by anything. And if it is completely unlimited in that way then it is also good and giving, because cruelty comes from selfishness, which comes from a lack, whereas the infinite wouldn’t have that. But then I really don’t know if that intuitive belief in a creator holds up because what can my human intuition really tell me about the mysterious beginning of complex, finite existence? How do I know it’s not anthromorphism of processes and existences far beyond my understanding? After all, there is a lot about reality that’s intuitive to the way our brains collect and arrange information for us.

    The question of suffering is the biggest intuitive weight on the scales opposing theism. I can’t really know what God would do or question him if he exists. But in my logic, a loving Creator who is unforced by ANY thing or any reason would not design a world where the suffering of his children is necessary.

    Another topic that interests me is the origin of consciousness. I can’t see it coming out of merely mechanical processes and reactions, even the sum of extremely complex ones. But this is a topic that no one really has much clarity on, so I have to claim a humble and overwhelmed uncertainty once again.

    I want to much to know the answers and I feel some despair at how difficult these questions really are. I’m not content to simply find meaning in life if most of my deepest and most valued instincts are just fiction, and my life just exists as something stolen from all the other organisms that have been oppressed and consumed, with real suffering, so I can be here. What can I teach my child if so much of what I want to be trye really isn’t? But I certainly don’t rule out the possibility of God, and I think that to believe the world is certainly purely material is narrow-minded and unscientific. Even while at the same time I question the ability of science or philosophy to prove God’s existence simply because we’re just so limited and we always have to start with such monumental assumptions. I still love that there is logic, life, and love in the world, and God was and still is my deepest love; I can’t erase that, so I use it to bring a humility that suits truth-seeking.

    I look forward to following this conversation.

    Like

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