I recently made a presentation in which I argued with myself about whether God exists, and I’m posting it here, one speech at a time. For details, see my previous entry. As you read, notice what you think and feel when you are reading statements by the “other side.”
This talk was set up on a modified college debate format. The master of ceremonies begins:
And now, ladies and gentlemen, speaking for the affirmative on the proposition, Resolved: That a personal deity created the universe, here is Pastor Chris. (Pastor Chris steps to the lectern.)
Good morning and thank you for attending this important debate, in which I will show that a personal deity exists and created the universe. By a personal deity, I mean a God who does things persons do, such as thinking, feeling, making judgments, and communicating with us.
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.” “The Lord is my shepherd,” means that God’s relationship to me is analogous to a shepherd’s relationship with sheep, even though God doesn’t actually walk around carrying a shepherd’s crook. 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, philosopher Eric Reitan says 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 (p. 141).
So my first point is that 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 “the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.” “Makes perfect sense,” the author sarcastically concluded.
Some people have devoted their lives to spiritual exploration, with the same commitment as those who study physics or chemistry. These spiritual seekers have sensed the presence of a wise, loving, and creative force that has unlimited power. They have experienced an intuitive realization that this is what brought the cosmos into being. So these seekers 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, life would have been utterly impossible. Many scientists now 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 created on purpose, 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.
(In the next installment, skeptical Dr. Schriner will make his opening remarks.)
Roger Christan Schriner
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