Earlier I wrote two posts about “Why believe in God at all?”. I had 6 reasons. However, a few weeks ago I spoke on just this subject at a morning service at CBC (you can listen to the talk here). I shared my six points.
As an aside, one man was at the service as a visitor (a bit reluctantly). We chatted afterwards and he shared that he was an atheist, but had been chatting with a friend who is a Christian. The talk that day seemed to address all the questions that he has. I gave him a copy of the excellent book by Greg Boyd “Letters from a Sceptic”. He emailed me the following week to say that he’d read it, decided to believe in God and was heading along to church.
Anyway, on with the reasons. Someone else spoke with me afterwards and gave me another reason to add to my list. And then whilst on holiday I realised that there was yet another. So now I have eight!
So, here are the next 2 for the list. See what you think:
7. The Experience of Spiritual Evil
A friend of mine with whom I went to school described an experience that she and some friends had when they were teenagers that scared them immensely. For a ‘laugh’ they decided to use a “Ouija Board” or planchette. They all sat in a circle, put their hands upon a glass in the middle of the table and asked spirits to move the glass to spell out messages. The glass began to move, and there appeared to be communication. The girls were terrified, they stopped and decided to smash the glass. They threw the glass repeatedly on a concrete patio and it wouldn’t smash. Now even more scared they ran and buried the glass in a nearby field, vowing never to do something like this again.
You may never have experienced this, but for huge numbers of people around the world, especially in cultures where an understanding of the spirit world is more common that in Europe, they can point to experiences or encounters that could indicate the activity of spiritual forces, including evil ones. I have encountered this many times, where people have been drawn to faith in God because they have discovered the reality of a spiritual world in ways that have been scary, worrying or malevolent. The promise of Christ’s victory over “principalities and powers” is a wonderful message of liberation for people affected by this.
Having thought about this again, I remembered that in the period before I became a Christian I was very interested in people’s accounts of their experiences of ghosts. I even wanted to study parapsychology at university (unfortunately, no-one was offering a course in it at the time!). Looking back, this curiosity would have made me more open to the idea that a spiritual world does exist. This is true for so many.
8. The Persistence of the Jews
“Mr. Prime Minister, what evidence can you give me of the existence of God?”
Disraeli thought for a moment and then replied, “The Jew, your majesty.”
What did Disraeli (himself a Jew who had converted to Christianity) mean? Why should the Jewish people be an evidence of the existence of God? What’s so special about them?
The Jewish people trace their roots back to Abraham around 3,500 years ago. During all those centuries, there have been huge numbers of nations, tribal groups and religious systems that have emerged all around the world. Are any of them still with us today? Where are the Hittites and their religion, the Babylonians and their empire and scriptures, the Greeks and all their gods, the Vikings and their Valhalla, the Kingdom of Zimbabwe and their beliefs, the Egyptian empire with Ra & Isis……. we could go on, the list is long.
Whilst one may point to the peoples and religion of India as one place where this has happened – but India is really a conglomeration of many different tribal, racial and language groups – and the religion of India is a really a collection of belief systems under the very broad umbrella of Hinduism.
The other thing that sets the Jewish people apart is that few nations or religions have faced such extreme efforts to eradicate them. Since their arrival in Canaan (modern day Israel/Palestine) in around 1300BC they have been invaded, exiled and ultimately scattered across the world – the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans all invaded and exiled them. Since the Diaspora in 70AD following the defeat of the Jews by the Roman empire the Jews have not always had an easy time of it in Europe, Asia, Africa and latterly in the Americas. Unfortunately, again and again, they were persecuted by so-called Christians in the pogroms and crusades that occurred again and again in Europe, Russia and beyond. The Holocaust is the latest and most dramatic of these.
And yet, the Jewish people are still here. Across the world they are a race, a tribe, a nation – and have a clearly identified religion and scriptures. This is unique in world history – no other group can point to this remarkable thing.
(The thoughts here should not be read as particular support for the modern state of Israel or some forms of Christian Zionism – both things about which I have some questions).
The prophet Jeremiah said in about 600BC in the Bible:
35 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name: 36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.” (Jeremiah 31:35-36)
Could this be evidence of a God who speaks and keeps his promises?