Tell about your theology using critical reasoning. How do you know that what you believe is true?
Everybody in seminary has to do this. It’s an exercise to separate fact from feeling and truth from bias. Many are quite shaken by the assignment.
Which reminds me… before you read further, let me say two things. First, if you’re in a vulnerable state, such as grief or illness, just skip over this post. Second, if you read further and it’s too disturbing, please understand that you can walk away from your computer screen and go right back to the security of your faith. I’ll understand.
I’m asking you to show me that your God is real. Don’t tell me to go read a book or watch a movie or listen to your special preacher. 1 Peter 3:15 says to always be ready to give an account of your hope to someone who asks. So here I am, asking.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Can you describe God without using imagery?
A clever story isn’t going to get the job done. I’ve heard a lot of them and at one time I told them from the pulpit. Metaphors, analogies, illustrations, and other literary devices can be valuable in their descriptive powers but they don’t prove anything.
I’m aware that this takes out your best stuff: All those great preacher stories. And the biblical images: God is love. God is light. He is Abba Father. God is a nursing mother, the Lord is our Shepherd. Don’t forget the more severe ones where God is a Judge or a defending warrior. And then there’s all that stuff in Revelation.
It’s all quite dramatic but it’s not proof. If your God is real, you shouldn’t have to rely on imagery to talk about him.
On to the next question:
Can your God be described without quoting the Bible?
I’m a skeptic, and you can understand that your telling me the Bible is the inspired Word of God because the Bible says so just isn’t going to cut it. Besides, truth is truth and it can stand on its own without having to quote chapter and verse. So tell me something true.
And don’t tell me to just open my eyes, look up, and see…. That’s subjective stuff. Pointing to a flower, or a rhinoceros, or the sky and telling me that God made it… that’s not proof. Neither is it proof when events worked out favorably after you prayed–that’s still subjective.
This is the point where most people get exasperated, throw up their hands and mutter something about casting their pearls before swine. You’ll want to dismiss me by saying God will remain a mystery as long as I refuse to believe. But I don’t refuse to believe. I always wanted to believe. I’ve spent my life trying to believe.
So don’t be ashamed of your gospel. You want to stand up for Jesus, don’t you? You want to win me over don’t you? Wouldn’t that be a feather in your cap?
However, you should be fair. I want the chance to persuade you, too, not because I want you to come over to my side and not because I’m trying to deliver you to the devil. I aim to win you over to yourself where you can own your thoughts and make your choices.
I want to engage in real conversation. I’ll try very hard to be respectful. I know that many of us atheists can get cranky and perhaps you can understand where that comes from when you realize that many of them have been ridiculed, excluded, and attacked by the people they love. Some have lost everything—jobs, marriages, family, children…. But I promise I won’t be mean to you, and I’ll ask my atheist friends who comment here to do the same.
So talk to me in the comment section. Or you can email me, if you like, at firstname.lastname@example.org.