Summary: We all "know" there’s a God, but how can we come to know him.
This is a series based on and heavily dependent on Timothy Keller’s Best Seller "The Reason For God" for which I’m deeply grateful. It uses much of his argument though with various additions by myself or the other preachers of the series.
I want to suggest that we all “know” there’s a God. Even those people who would claim no belief in God, when you press them harder would acknowledge that deep within them is something that says there must be some power external to ourselves that sets the rules, that requires justice and fairness.
The God Sense in all of us.
If you think about it, we all know certain things are wrong:- the man who murders his children; the government that tries to wipe out a whole tribe or a nationality group; the businessman who embezzles his clients money; the CEO who makes sexual advances to his young staff members; the sportsperson who takes performance enhancing drugs. These are just a few of the things that happen in our world that provoke moral outrage, not just among believers but throughout the community at large.
But how can this be? The majority of our population would claim to have no faith in God. Most would say they don’t really believe in God. Yet deep within them is a moral compass that tells them whether something is right or wrong.
Despite the fears of religious leaders that moral relativism is the ruling mindset of people, if you look at their deepest responses you’ll see that the vast majority behave as though there was a God who cares about how people behave.
Even if you do hear people say that it’s wrong to impose your moral views on others, because of course we all have the right to make up our own minds, it’s almost impossible to live like that.
You may have seen the Insight program on the ABC a few weeks ago that was examining the experiment going on in NSW to replace Religious Education with classes in ethics. There’s a group calling themselves the St James Ethics Centre. It’s a group without any religious affiliation, unless you consider humanism a religion. Their purpose is to provide a non-judgemental forum for the promotion and exploration of ethics. And they want to run classes in schools teaching children how to make decisions using a framework for ethical decision making. They actually showed one of the classes in action and what became very clear as the class progressed was that while they were being “provided with a shared understanding of ethical language, methods, frameworks (such as codes of ethics and conduct) and decision-making models” they weren’t being given any grounds for making those decisions other than what seemed good at the time or what would serve their interests best. In other words there was no mention of a moral basis for ethical decision making.
But then you might ask whether that’s fair enough. In a world where God’s word is rejected or at least ignored, why would you teach children that some things are right and some are wrong? But as I said, we can’t actually live like that can we? We have deep within us a strong sense both of moral values and of moral obligation. We all have what we call a conscience. We know when we’ve done something wrong, even if no-one else finds out about it. And we all have a strong sense that certain things ought to be done even if they don’t suit us, even if they’re not in our own self interest. We may not always act on it, but we know that the bully should be stopped; we know that the boss who takes advantage of her employees should be reported; we know that the priest who abuses young children should be defrocked. Even if the person can justify their action in their own mind, we know that they’re deluding themselves. The Nazis justified their murder of Jews by claiming they were an inferior race. They may even have been genuine in that belief but we all know they were wrong. We know what they did was evil.
But how do we know?
We believe some things are right and some are wrong because deep down we know there must be a God. Because otherwise we’d be left with the conclusion of people like Nietzsche and Jean Paul Sartre who concluded that since God was dead there was no reason to be kind or loving or to work for peace. If all there is, is the moment you’re in, then you might as well enjoy yourself and ignore everyone else. Too bad if someone gets hurt. That’s their problem.
And that’s an answer that satisfies very few people in the end. So if we know deep down there must be a God, how can we get to know him? How can we find out what he really wants from us?