Monday, October 28, 2013

Me, delusional?

Jennifer Fulwiler recently posted some really intriguing questions about having a relationship with God that she discussed during a recent interview in conjunction with the Explore God campaign. They are:

• Richard Dawkins says belief in God is delusional. But most Americans believe they have a personal relationship with God. Are they all delusional?

• Our planet is so small in the grand scheme of things. Does the idea that the Creator of the universe wants to know us personally come from an over-inflated sense of self?

• If God wants a personal relationship with us, why doesn’t he make his presence more obvious?

• With all the terrible things going on in the world, does God care about the details of our lives?

• For someone who would like a relationship with God but has no idea where to start, what is the first step?

• “It seems impossible to have a personal relationship with somebody who won’t talk with you coherently, won’t talk with you at all, and who won’t answer your really tough questions.”

• The vast majority of Americans believe that God answers prayers. Isn’t that easy for us to say since we have comfortable, wealthy lives?

• Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?

I weighed in on my general sentiments on her blog. Here is what I said:

Wow, I think these are *REALLY* hard questions that cut to the root of what it means to be faithful! I commend you for taking a stab at answering them in front of a camera!

I can only speak from personal experience, but the reason I know that I have a personal relationship with God is because I experience Him in my life. I pray, and I feel Him stirring in my heart. His responses may not come in the way that people might converse with their neighbors down the street. But they come in the little things . . . like the song that plays on the Christian radio station when I need to hear it, or the words of encouragement received unexpectedly in the midst of my struggles, or the “nudging” I experience when God wants me to do something (i.e., the opportunity he wants me to pursue is the only one on the table (God loves to limit my options that way since I tend to obsess when I have too many choices!), or the path that he wants me to follow keeps re-presenting itself whether in conversations with others or experiences I have, etc.). It’s impossible to offer “proof” of these experiences sufficient to satisfy non-believers. But my experience is “proof” to me, and it only came because I opened myself up to it, to God, and to his will for my life. It required that literal leap of faith to experience relationship with Him.

The thing is — how do you offer “proof” to anyone of any relationship you have, whether it be a relationship with another person or with God? Let’s talk about it in concrete terms. Let’s say that Person C wants Person A to prove that Person A has a relationship with Person B. How does Person A offer that proof? Well, Person A could tell Person C about the relationship. But that’s not very strong in terms of “proof”. The only other way that I can think of is for Person C to witness the relationship between Person A and Person B. And, ultimately, Person C won’t be able to truly understand relationship between Person A and Person B unless Person C witnesses the entire relationship between Person A and Person B. Which is difficult, if not impossible. As a practical matter and unless Person C is going to spend his/her entire life observing Person A and Person B interact, Person C is going to have to take some of Person A’s observations about his/her relationship with Person B on faith. In other words, Person C is going to have to trust Person A. And this is where I struggle with some of my atheist friends. How can they judge a relationship with God that they haven’t witnessed?

To answer one of the other questions, I do think that God cares about the “little things” in our lives. From my perspective, this answer cuts to the heart of what it means to be a parent for most people. God created us. He is our “parent”. How could He not care? Just like with my children. How could I not care about what is bothering them? Granted, there may be times that their concerns are not all that major in the grand scheme of things, but they still matter to me because they are my kids.

Interesting discussion and video . . . Thank you so much for sharing!

These questions really gave me much to grapple with. I led from my heart on them (as per my thoughts above), but how would I articulate thoughtful and/or reasonable responses to them, if I was speaking to a non-believer? I honestly don't know. Candidly, that discourages me a bit. Maybe I need to go to "apologist school" (Is there such a thing? If so, sign me up!) or, more likely, I just need to study more theology. In my spare time, yeah . . . But I do wonder what the great Catholic thinkers of our day would say in response to these questions.

Anyone out there want to weigh in? No 'great Catholic thinker' credentials required! :)

How would you answer these questions? What do you think about them? What do you think of my response? I would love to hear anyone else's knee-jerk reaction or personal response(s).

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