In my most recent blog-entry I invited readers to post Comments with arguments for and against God’s existence. Thank you for submitting items such as the cosmological argument and the argument from design.
A few weeks ago I gave a talk at a Unitarian Universalist church called “Does God Exist? Pastor Chris Debates Dr. Schriner.” In that presentation I debated with myself about the proposition, Resolved: That a personal deity created the universe. I defined “personal deity” as a God who does things persons do, such as thinking, feeling, and communicating.
Here are excerpts from the opening statement I made as Pastor Chris:
Obviously God is not literally a person, with arms and legs, and fingernails that need trimming once a week. But calling God a person conveys more truth than any other way of describing our Creator. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, we speak about God “indirectly, through analogy.” So in saying that a personal God exists, I mean that God is like a human being in many ways, and also far beyond us.
One thing persons do is communicate, and countless individuals testify that they have clearly experienced the presence of God, listening to them and speaking to them. Some communications are subtle, as when Elijah heard the still, small voice. Others are dramatic, as when Paul was struck blind while hearing the voice of Jesus.
And here’s what’s really important. This sense of communication with deity is extremely common. I do not believe that so many people, in all cultures, in all periods of history, and at all levels of education, could be so deeply mistaken.
God’s communications show us what God is like, and mystical experiences are especially important. In a wonderful book called Is God a Delusion? Eric Reitan notes that the typical features of mystical experiences are exactly what we would expect if mystics were in contact with a loving and powerful deity, a transcendent reality which has both the power and the desire to fulfill our deepest hopes.
So God’s communication with countless humans shows that deity is a personal being. My second point is that this personal being created the universe. People have always wondered where the world came from, but atheism has no answer to this question. Someone on the Internet defined atheism as:
“Makes perfect sense,” the author ironically concluded.
Some dedicated individuals have devoted their lives to spiritual exploration, with the same commitment as those who have studied physics or chemistry. Many of these spiritual seekers have felt an intuitive realization that this is what brought the cosmos into being. So these teachers have connected their own religious experiences with an understanding of how the world was made.
On top of that, there is compelling scientific evidence that the universe was created on purpose. Physicists report that if certain cosmic laws had been infinitesimally different, intelligent life would have been utterly impossible. Many scientists say that it looks as if the whole shebang was deliberately set up as a home for creatures like us.
So science shows that the cosmos was intentionally created, and the religious experiences of innumerable individuals show that a powerful and caring deity exists. These two ideas fit together. There is a God, and God created the universe.
What do you think? Do these ideas from “Pastor Chris” make sense? If not, what are their flaws?
After the Pastor spoke, I removed my ecclesiastical stole and put on my glasses, thereby transforming myself into the atheistic Dr. Schriner. Next week I’ll share his remarks.
Roger Christan Schriner
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