The phone rings the other night and it's a young fellow on the other end. He is having some trouble with belief in God and he heard that I am the foremost authority in the world on the subject. After laughing myself silly, I could hardly resist giving him some of my time. Even with my brain shouting that this categorization is absurd, my ego held me back from denying it with the requisite firmness.
"I was brought up Jewish but I rejected that and became an atheist," he begins. "This friend of mine is very positive about her religion and now I am beginning to wonder who is right."
"Well, were your parents knowledgeable about religion?" I asked.
"No, not at all."
"Did you attend religious school?"
"So you never really rebelled against Judaism. You rebelled against your parents' attempt to saddle you with a religion without an explanation."
"I guess you're right."
"What it amounts to is that you need to get enough information about the claims of the religion so you can make an informed judgment. The problem is that it's hard for you to find the time to essentially go back to college and study a new discipline."
"You're right. I'm 27 years old and running a successful business. But it would help if you can convince me why I should want to go back to college, as you put it."
"Well, I start with the assumption that whatever the Biblical life system is it must be smart and its texts must be intellectually engaging. After all, the Jews were locked in their ghettos for centuries and limited to studying their own materials. As soon as the universities admitted them, they went straight to the top in a whole range of academic disciplines."
"Therefore intellectual curiosity makes a lot of people want to open those books. Once they do, many recognize their genius and invest a lot of energy in that study."
"But why should I believe those books came from God?"
"A combination of reasons. Some people find the wisdom so powerful they are convinced of its Divine provenance. Then the fact that the entire Jewish nation testified to the world and protected the contents carefully. The fact that the Bible of a tiny nation was so compelling the other major religions accepted its truth as the basis for their systems. The fact that its major predictions have been fulfilled. The fact that its grasp of human nature is so on target."
"How can you prove to me that God exists in the first place?"
"In a way the Bible itself proves God. Once you accept the Jews could not have made up the story of what happened at Sinai, then you have to believe it was true revelation. Either that or a genius theatrical production which not only fooled a few million very sharp cookies in the audience, it also left behind a book of such superior literary quality that it still moves people to live nobly thousands of years later."
"I see what you're saying. Very interesting. Investigating the Bible and its commentaries is a path which could itself lead to clarity about God. But for me at this stage, with no Biblical knowledge, can you prove the existence of God independently?"
"Well, I don't think you can prove it definitively. But I think you can meet the criminal law standard of getting beyond a reasonable doubt. The way they prove guilt in most cases is not by establishing what happened, but by making the other options seem absurd. If the guy's computer shows that he searched for deadly poisons, then he spent a lot of time researching ethylene glycol, otherwise known as anti-freeze, discovering its taste can be masked by Gatorade, then he kept feeding his wife Gatorade and she died suddenly from ethylene glycol poisoning, there is zero proof that he killed her, but he will be convicted. We will not accept that sequence as coincidence.
"Same thing with Creation. You cannot prove there is a Creator just because the world is a series of near-infinite components interacting seamlessly, with different levels of creatures all providing nutrition for the others. It's just that it becomes too absurd to imagine that all this elaborate tapestry is there without a founding vision. God is convicted of creating the world beyond a reasonable doubt."
"If I accept that argument, why should I assume that the Bible emerged from that Creator?"
"A series of logical steps. One, there is an intelligence planning the world. Two, there must be some result that intelligence looks to achieve. Three, it makes sense that man, as the only intelligent and creative creature, is tasked with accomplishing that purpose. Four, there must be some way in which the Creator communicates that task to mankind. Five, we should look for the most authenticated and consistent version of such a prophecy being delivered. Six, the Bible meets that test based on the arguments we cited above."
That was satisfying. I may not be the foremost authority by any stretch, but it turned out I could give a fair account of the basis of the Biblical worldview. At least when the person questioning brings an open mind….
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