Does it make sense to believe in God? Author and pastor Tim Keller thinks so, and has written a book to explain why. I’m convinced it’s one his best efforts, as well as one of the best books I’ve ever read.
The book is called Making Sense of God, and it’s particularly helpful in challenging many widespread beliefs associated with modern secularism, including the idea that belief in God is based on non-rational faith, while non-belief simply makes sense of the facts. Following Dave’s excellent sermon from last Sunday, reading the book would be a great next step for anyone wishing to strengthen his or her own belief, or grow in the ability to engage contemporary challenges to truth and reasonableness of Christian belief.
By all means pick up a copy for yourself, but here are a few quotes to give you the flavor of the book:
- Actually, it is quite natural to human beings to move toward belief in God. As humanities scholar Mark Lilla has written: “To most humans, curiosity about higher things comes naturally, it’s indifference to them that must be learned.”
- People believe in God not merely because they feel some emotional need, but because it makes sense of what they see and experience. Indeed, we have seen that many thoughtful people are drawn toward belief somewhat unwillingly. They embrace religion because they think it is more fully true to the facts of human existence than secularism is.
- Sociologists Peter Berger and Grace Davie report that “most sociologists of religion now agree” that the secularization thesis— that religion declines as a society becomes more modern—“ has been empirically shown to be false.” … Most striking of all are the demographic studies that predict that it is not religious populations but secular ones that are in long-term decline.
- To move from religion to secularism is not so much a loss of faith as a shift into a new set of beliefs and into a new community of faith, one that draws the lines between orthodoxy and heresy in different places. This is one of the main reasons many secular people do not think it worth their while to explore and weigh the claims for believers in God and Christianity. They assume that belief is mainly a matter of faith while nonbelief is mainly based on reason.
- Another problem is that few of our convictions about truth can be proven scientifically. While we may be able to demonstrably prove to any rational person that substance X will boil at temperature Y at elevation Z, we cannot so prove what we believe about justice and human rights, or that people are all equal in dignity and worth, or what we think is good and evil human behavior. If we used the same standard of evidence on our other beliefs that many secular people use to reject belief in God, no one would be able to justify much of anything.
- How do beliefs in individual freedom, human rights, and equality arise from or align with the idea that human beings came to be what they are through the survival of the fittest? They don’t, really. Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov sarcastically summarized the ethical reasoning of secular humanism like this: “Man descended from apes, therefore we must love one another.” The second clause does not follow from the first. If it was natural for the strong to eat the weak in the past, why aren’t people allowed to do it now?
- Christians do not say to themselves: “Stop thinking out the implications of what you believe about the universe. Just try to enjoy the day.” No, if a Christian is feeling downcast and meaningless, it is because, in a sense, she is not being rational enough. She is not thinking enough about the implications of what she believes about the universe.
- We see, then, that freedom is not what the culture tells us. Real freedom comes from a strategic loss of some freedoms in order to gain others. It is not the absence of constraints but it is choosing the right constraints and the right freedoms to lose.
- Professor Richard Bauckham writes: “Almost certainly Christianity exhibits more cultural diversity than any other religion, and that must say something about it.”
- Most of the skeptics whom I have seen move toward faith later told me that it was around this issue of moral obligation that they first began to wonder whether their views really fit the actual world they lived in.
- All these arguments and signs that we have been reviewing are not so strong as to force belief, but they do make it completely rational to believe. In fact, these arguments are that it is more rational and takes less of a leap of faith to believe in God than to not believe. If your premise that there is no God leads most naturally to conclusions you know are not true— that moral obligation, beauty and meaning, the significance of love, our consciousness of being a self are illusions— then why not change the premise?
- This creates a great conundrum for anyone trying to understand this most influential figure in world history. Jesus is one of the very few persons in history who founded a great world religion or who, like Plato or Aristotle, has set the course of human thought and life for centuries. Jesus is in that tiny, select group. On the other hand, there have been a number of human persons over the years who have implicitly or explicitly claimed to be divine beings from other worlds. Many of them were demagogues; many more of them were leaders of small, self-contained sects of true believers. What is unique about Jesus is that he is the only member of the first set of persons who is also a member of the second.
- As the Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo says, if we don’t believe in the Resurrection, we will be “forced to believe that what did hit the disciples was some other amazing event different in kind yet of equal force in its electrifying intensity.”