Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why I Am Not an Atheist

I have been reading books by atheists recently. I just finished “Good Without God” by Greg Epstein, and I am now reading “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens. They challenge me to think about God in ways that Christian writers do not.

Atheist arguments push me to examine my assumptions and presuppositions. Why do I believe in God? Am I fooling myself? Why am I so certain that God exists when these thinkers are so certain he does not?

My first instinct is to appeal to biblical authority; that is the way I have been taught. As the children’s song says, “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But arguments based on Biblical authority and inspiration are meaningless to atheists.

Why do I accept the authority of Scripture? Why do I believe what the Bible says about God? When I keep asking myself “Why?” long enough, it comes down to personal experience. Either you have had a spiritual experience that convinces you of God’s reality, or you haven’t.

The bedrock of my faith is a deep and abiding personal awareness of God. Apparently this is something that atheists do not experience. I don’t know why I have this awareness of God and they don’t. Maybe it’s grace. Perhaps it is what the Bible means by election. For me the awareness of the presence of God is strong and sure. Atheists’ arguments against the existence of God are irrelevant when asked in the presence of God.

Am I deceiving myself about my awareness of God? Maybe. But I might be deceiving myself about the presence of the chair I am sitting in or the light shining through the window. But those are physical phenomena provable by science, the skeptics claim. True.

Then how about beauty or art, mathematics or logic, love or music? God’s presence is as real as any of these for me. If I had to compare them, I would say that God is more real – even than the physical world. I am more certain that God exists than that I exist.

How can I describe this awareness of God? Words like existence, being or consciousness come to mind. Wholeness, joy, and peace express it somewhat. The phrases of Paul Tillich are helpful – Ground of Being, Being Itself, Ultimate Concern. But these sound so impersonal. God is not impersonal.

God is personal in a way greater than human persons. People can be so impersonal; God is never impersonal. God is not a superhuman personality – an invisible male in the sky. God is the depth and height of all relationships. God is that in which everything else exists. God is. When Moses pressed God repeatedly to identify himself, God finally responded, “I am who I am.” That is God.

God does not exist; God is. God is who God is. I am who I am in God. Apart from God I am not. I do not exist apart from God. Apart from God nothing exists. This primary awareness of God is where I take my stand. That is why I believe in God.

This consciousness of the presence of God does not feel like an experience to me. Experience assumes a certain distance between the experiencer and the experienced. Experience needs a subject and an object. God is not an Object that I experience. This feels more like an intuitive awareness in which there is no distance between God and me. If I had to describe this as an experience, I would say that I am conscious of God experiencing me.

That may not make a lot of sense, but it is as good as I can do. I am certain it is not good enough for atheists. I am sure they can explain this in naturalistic terms. But it is good enough for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment