Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Proof of God?

At the risk of sounding like all that I do is watch television, I will confess that this blog has been prompted by watching "The Story of God", a 3 part series presented by Lord Robert Winston. Those who have seen the well known documentary series, The Human Body, will recognise Winston who this time explores the relationship between science and religion. Winston, who is both a professor of science and practicing Jew concludes that certainty should not be a part of either science or religion.

For my own part, I have ceased to be interested in the subject of apologetics - I do not believe that I can prove through logic, science or scripture that God exists. I have played on both sides of this game before (trying to prove that God does or does not exist) and both are ultimately fruitless. The best alternative that I can offer is what religious people simply call testimony. I can talk about how I have experienced what I understand as a God presence in the world. For instance, I attended a funeral in Zambia earlier this year where several hundred people gathered on top of a large hill to celebrate the life and mourn the death of a man whose life was ended too early. I count this as one of the moments where I felt a tangible God presence in the world, yet I know that this is an act of interpretation and faith more than empirical evidence - and I'm happy for it to be so.

The significant questions for me then are not about whether God exists (for this is beyond my capacity to prove in either direction) but if, based on my experience, God does exist - then what is God like and how should we respond to God's presence in the world? This is where I believe theology and the quest for justice meet.


JDK said...

For those interested in Robert Winston's view of science and religion, you can read the transcript of an ABC radio interview at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/spiritofthings/stories/2006/1651132.htm

Liam said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you Jason about the role of testimony over apologetics.
But I wonder if our understanding of God is based on our experience what your thoughts are on constructivism?
If I construct reality from my own perspective and you from yours, how do we work together to find the reality of God?

I have had a bit of a stab at this question on my new blog (warning, shameless plug) :)

JDK said...

Hi Liam,

I think constructivism is a vital epistemological framework for theological dialogue. Some people will be scared by the thought of relative truths and others dismiss it as post-modern nonsense, but it resonates deeply with my experience. I don't dismiss the idea that there may be absolute truths, just the thought that I might be able to grasp or articulate them! It's challenging enough to figure out what is true for me, however it is also (pleasantly) surprising how often others will relate to my own reflections on reality.

As I grow older, I find certainty to be increasingly arrogant. I'm ok with saying 'I don't really know, but this is how it works for me.' To me, this is a far better way to come across a shared understanding of God than imposing dogma. Of course, lots of people think I'm a terrible heretic.

I'll keep an eye on your blog ;-)

Regards, JDK

Anonymous said...

Tangible presence of God in Zambia.

Hmmm. You sure it wasn't the evil mumbo jumbo voodoo tom-tom spirit? After all you were in Africa under foreign cultural influences. Under different circumstances you might think it was the tooth fairy.

Why can't we all be right? It is theology after all.

[Just because tooth fairies are not in the Bible doesn't mean they don't exist]

Anonymous said...

This article by John Hick, Believable Christianity, is interesting in that it seems to overlap with your theological concepts, Jason.


JDK said...

Thanks David for your comments.

Let me put the tooth fairy aside for the moment and agree that Hick's article is substantially in line with my own theological views. As he suggests, these ideas have been around for more than 50 years now so it is surprising that they have not been more widely understood. The quest for a more believable Christian faith has been popularly lead more recently by people like Bishop Jack Spong, though unfortunately Spong sells more books by adding controversy and loses credibility at the same time. In Melbourne, Francis Macnab's promotion of a 21st century faith is part of the same stream of thought.

Whilst I am in broad agreement with many of these ideas, I sometimes find that they are lacking in application. I'm not only interested in a more believable Christianity, but also a more actionable Christianity - one that really makes a positive difference in the world. It's likely that this is more a question of emphasis than anything else, but it's important to me.

Regards, JDK

Anonymous said...

Very good article from John Hick - if that is Christianity then I think I could remain one. But if Jesus is not divine, but merely a man who is attributed with saying some profound things, at what point does Christianity end and secular humanism based on 'Jesus as guru' begin? If He was not 'God made flesh', didn't die for our sins (whatever 'sin' actually is), didn't rise from the dead, etc. then surely Christianity in anything close to its mainstream form should cease to exist. But can the alternative as proposed by Hick be Christianity at all?

JDK said...

Hi Jack,

These are the kinds of questions that I think we need to be asking. There may indeed be some forms of Christianity that will eventually cease to exist and probably should. For those, like myself, who find enough in Christianity to persist within its ranks, the current diversity of both theological and practical emphases are a healthy indicator. Those elements that cease to be compelling to people and fail to enhance human life will ultimately perish. For my part, I'll continue to try and sort through what I can to determine for myself what to take or leave.

Regards, JDK