Saturday, April 19, 2008
There Is A God
What a great discussion Wednesday night at Cascade College. We had 2 atheists, an agnostic philosophy professor, and myself discuss Antony Flew's book There is a God. The Rehearsal hall was packed (had to bring in extra chairs). This session the Cascade students were surprisingly absent (except the ones required to come for my class). Kevin Reed from Cascade moderated. We had students from Portland State, Mt. Hood Community College, a youth group, and many other visitors. This year the agnostic students took issue with the atheist's comment that we would be better off without religion. During the Q and A they had some pretty strong words to say. It was neat and the discussion drew everyone in and helped to prove that we can have conversations out of respect.
The book by Flew is an easy read. The panel was required to read the book, ask a question from the book (we also had a question submitted by the author of the book), and answer the questions from the panel and audience. I think we had a good healthy discussion. Chris Jackson, as usual, can be counted on getting the group to laugh often and still be an aggressive arguer. Jerry is his old smile but be grouchy self and continues to provoke people to get their hackles up and ask him questions. One of the men who attended emailed me Thursday and said that he and his 3 high school daughters had a great discussion about the debate all the way home. This is what we wanted. We also have open doors to talk further with the United State's Atheists, PSU's group, and at Mt. Hood. God is always good and obviously loves conversation.
What did I learn from this? I had finished Dawkin's book The God Delusion and was very much in tune to the language used by the atheists concerning Christians and people of faith.
1. Dawkins suggests that higher intellect people do not make up many of the members of the faith communities. He also suggests that faith is belief without evidence. However, Antony Flew's shift from atheist to believing in a supreme being proves that believing in God can be rational and intellectual. Flew was converted on many of the basic teliological arguments and suggests to us that they are valid reasons to believe in God.
2. We need intellectuals in the faith. I see many ministry majors that have the mind but not the passion for ministry. I see others that have the passion and have neglected the mind. We need both. Some of the Bible majors worry me--since our churches will hire them thinking that this is the best there is. They lack the discipline and courage to expand their mind. They act as if learning Greek, theology, and church history is the hardest part of ministry--yet little do they know that the hardest part is yet to come. We do need bright young minds to enter ministry and not only fight Satan in the areas of social justice--but fight him in the intellectual arena. We need young bright minds (male and female) who will smile at the challenges of modern culture and ask the questions people are afraid to ask. We need to remember that the statement, "Paul, your great learning has made you crazy," was not an inspired statement--it was made by a pagan.
3. Flew spent many years debating Christian theologians and developed a respect for them. Relationship may have played a part in his shift. Likewise, relationship plays an important part in our outreach and encouragement to others. We need intellectuals in the church but they must also be relational. People will be open if they are our friends.
4. We need to respect all people and listen. Nancy, one of the atheists, made the comment to the group that I had helped her to see that morals can be faith based. This has happend through years of discussions, friendship, and arguments based in respect.
5. People need to quit basing their views of religion on the Fundamentalist TV preachers that they see. There are many more people who have rational and logical answers to Bible questions. We want to find opportunities to talk with people and answer their questions and help them see that God is a loving caring God.
I'm looking forward to our next discussion.