Monday, November 09, 2009

How can I know if God exists? (Don Carson)

How do I know God exists? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.
ht: Saint Beagle
From A PASSION FOR LIFE vimeo pages


  1. The question that I want to ask is this: does having this theological outlook mean that you HAVE TO take this same practical approach?

  2. And the answer would be: no. But it's a way.

  3. That was kinda, where I was going. Glad we are on the same page. Quite a revealing video perhaps.

    I'm glad that Carson is having a go at speaking to one of the questions that many people are asking. He is a theologian that I respect deeply, but I think that he has tunnel vision sometimes. I have serious weaknesses in my thinking, and far more than he does.

    I'm just not sure that calling people disobedient is Paul's approach in Acts 17, or within the character of Jesus: who gave grace to those humbly seeking. I'm sure that like me you have met a few people, who sincerely and humbly have just wanted some reasons to believe in God. Is Carson suggesting that we answer them like this?

    And lets not just see this as simply a practical concern/critique. There is a theological error here too - I think it has to do with the tunnel vision thing.

    I'll be specific. Didn't Paul give us a very different theological model and practical model in Acts 17? He tried to build bridges, and find positive points of contact, 'Men of Athens you are very religious', 'as some of your poets/prophets have said...' and acknoweledge the good, and the true? Carson, seems to start with a negative, 'You are not thinking about this in the right way.' Not exactly the same is it?

    True, Paul also offered some critique in Acts 17, but I don't get the Acts 17 vibe from this video. I was hoping for a better evangelistic theology from one of my heroes.

    And do you think he is in the toilet? Why?

  4. Tom,

    Are you not being a bit harsh on Don? He is after all going after certain atheistic presuppositions and not the whole answer. Seems like a fair point in the current climate.

    "Paul also offered some critique," what, like, stop being idolaters? Bit of an understatement don't you think? ;-)

  5. Perhaps, but admit it, I've questioned the evangelical pope and got you thinking about starting from truth, rather than error haven't I?

  6. Tonight at Christianity Explored I was asked...

    Why do people pray who aren't Christians? (why do we even think to do it)And, what about conscience?

    If I'm honest it caught me a bit off guard. I went for an image of God, echoes of who we are meant to be, desire pointing to reality kind of answer. How would you take it?

  7. That is a pretty strange question! Let's try and list possible motives first....

    Might be a question from a Christian trying to steer you to say certain things

    Might be someone from a cult, trying to get you to say certain things

    Might be someone who has heard someone say, 'Only Christians can access God', but who prays, and wants to find an explanation/justification for it continuing to be meaningful.

    Might be someone who is wondering if God exists, and whether the religious impulse to pray, and/or conscience is a clue.

    Might be someone who is struggling with something that they have done, feeling conviction of sin.

    Might be someone who is suggesting that the desire to pray isn't unique to Christians?

    Might be someone thinking about whether Jesus is the only way to God?

    Might be someone thinking about how God speaks/communicates with us?

    Here is my question:
    When you asked the person afterwards, whether your answer was satisfying, and whether it addressed what they were asking: what did they say?

  8. Tom,

    I thought he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not the Pope.

  9. Tom - lets take it as a genuine question from an international student, who sadly I didn't get to talk to afterwards because I got caught in conversation with the resurrection questioner.

  10. Might be a catholic...

    What else..?

  11. Possible though not massively likely that a Chinese student would be. I think probably it's around "Might be someone who is wondering if God exists, and whether the religious impulse to pray, and/or conscience is a clue." combined with... but if people pray anyway, why bother with Jesus.

    Though there's only so much I can speculate. Curious to see how you might approach it, in a Q&A context such as the one in which it was asked last night. Granted you could follow up 121 afterwards, how would you begin publicly?

  12. The non-verbal communication is quite important. So, if I was in the situation, I might answer the same question differently based on a "read" of where the person is coming from.

    My experience is that many Christians are poor at understanding where someone, asking something about God, is coming from.

    So, this speculation stage might be more important than you think. I've found that its the answers that I work out - later - when speculating, that are my resource for future conversations. So I've already started approaching how I would answer it.

    I think I might be tempted to ask the person to say a little more, (in a group of 20) to help me understand what the question is. I think I would try to ask a further question, after that, to make sure that I had understood the question correctly and exactly as they mean't it.

    If our interpretation of the question turned out to be correct. That it "Might be someone who is wondering if God exists, and whether the religious impulse to pray, and/or conscience is a clue." combined with... but if people pray anyway, why bother with Jesus...

    Then I might say something like this:

    "It is interesting that we seem to want to reach out to something bigger than ourselves, and have a sense of right and wrong, which must come from somewhere. Of course, it may be just wishful thinking - to think that there is something there. But thankfully, God has answered the question: Who are we praying to? His answer was his son, God in human flesh. A human being who can also understand why we really want to pray sometimes. His work on the cross, opens a door for us to have access to God, who is holy and pure and is the sources of our sense of right and wrong. Romans 2:15 tells us about this moral law written on our hearts. And in Mark's gospel (1:35-36) he gives us an image of Jesus praying in a lonely place, even though everyone is fascinated by the things that he is saying and doing. The question that, this might leave us with is: What if he really did and said that stuff? How might that change the way that we pray?