Inside and Outside
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer pg.100)
Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist, is highly critical of religious belief in God. He sees it, (often rightly I'm afraid), as the source of many of our current problems. He argues that there might at one time have been an evolutionary, genetic advantage to a belief in a transcendent being, even though no such being exists. But he says that now that we know better, we should discard this belief that no longer is helpful. Rather faith in God is a delusion.
Of course the truth is that faith is part of any human life. Faith in God, or faith in no God are simply two faiths. Both often use the same evidence to support their claims.
Those who hold the no-God faith look at the scope, magnificence, complexity, and seeming indifference of the universe and say, it is obvious that there is no transcendent being that created this.
Those who hold to the God faith look at the scope, magnificence, complexity, and seeming indifference of the universe and say, it is obvious that there is a transcendent being that created this.
I often find people arguing with atheists saying things like “There must be a God, the Bible says so.”
Of course the problem is that to believe that anything in the Bible is true, you must be on the “inside” of faith. For many of us, a belief in God must precede a belief that God actually spoke through the complex and messy books that make up the Bible.
Those who try to speak to those on the “outside” of faith, using the Bible to support their claims are wasting their breath. Those “outside” do not see the Bible as having any special authority or relevance. To them, faith in what the Bible says seems just as irrational as faith in God.
I never worry about those who do not believe. If there is a transcendent, all knowing, all powerful, God who created the Universe, then he is quite capable of reaching those who do not believe in him.
I know, because I was one of them. In today’s lesson from Romans Paul declares that: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In other words, God is able to let people hear his voice. It may be that they will hear by the words of a preacher, or reading the words of the Bible. It can happen in numerous ways. When it does, then the scripture will come alive with the power and presence of God.
I said I do not worry about those who do not believe. I do not worry, but I do pray. Like Paul who is desperate that his Jewish family comes to know Jesus, I am desperate for many to be touched by Christ. I want them to know what a great gift awaits them when Jesus becomes the object of their faith. And I will preach as persuasively as I know how.
But in the end I trust all those who believe and those who do not to the great shepherd. (Jesus said) John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."