There’s probably no God
While advertisements on London buses say: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life,' the atheists' atheist Woody Allen, in a recent interview said,
"I am an atheist. I've never found any comfort for the misery of life, or the terror of death'.
A worry free, enjoyable life? Woody Allen has a good awareness of what life on earth without God is like. Without God there is no logic to pain, frustration, suffering, acts of mindless cruelty, nor of why death is written into our DNA and into that of the cosmos " death remains for all, a terrifying prospect. Nor is there for the atheist, any explanation for the existence of "good'!
Unless God reveals his existence and provides the answer to these questions, we are all left in Woody Allen's situation. The more optimistic will try to take Eric Idle's advice to heart:
"You come from nothing; you are going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!'
These optimists will live denying the terror of death.
By contrast Christians have hope in the face of death and the down side of life. That hope and comfort is drawn from words such as:
"In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth'.
Written almost four thousand years ago this ancient writer declared that before the beginning, there was God. Creation was not a random, meaningless event.
Hope and comfort is likewise drawn from words such as those written in the late 1st Century A.D. by John the apostle:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning'.
Some sentences later John continues,
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We (the disciples) have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.'
John is writing about Jesus, identifying him as the "One and Only', as the Messiah making God known.
Before I became a Christian I was a youthful yet a severe critic of Christianity. My ground for such criticism was similar to Woody Allen's. The very experience of life, to me, denied the existence of God. Death made life meaningless.
In 1965 I left Newcastle to take up a teaching appointment in Sydney. I didn't know then that I was moving to a city that knew God. Here, for the first time, I met men and women who spoke openly about believing in God and of having a relationship with God. They read the Bible, went to church and had a purpose and meaning to their lives that was alien to mine. Some of these Christians talked with me about my questions; teased my mind with their answers and challenged my youthful assessment of "life the universe and all that'. I remember being taught to pray in a coffee shop; being given a Bible with a booklet to help me understand it; of being endlessly invited to church and, when I finally gave in and went, of hearing a sermon that challenged all my understandings of life.
Becoming a Christian wasn't easy. I had to rethink everything; my mind needed its questions answered. What was even more difficult was learning to change my patterns of living. Yet, none of that mattered given the enjoyment of discovering that God is there.
Becoming a Christian wasn't easy. My non-Christian friends ridiculed me. I was laughingly spoken of as having "got religion'. And while this hurt, and of course I was upset that I didn't "fit' any longer, there was solace in discovering the authenticity of the Bible documents, in learning from others who knew the Bible well, and who could explain to me how God had acted to reveal himself and why the world is as it is.
I was impressed by the integrity of these Christians, by their honesty and transparency. They didn't think they came by chance from nothing, or that they were going to nothing. Nor were they afraid of God! They spoke of God's love for them, of God's generosity to them, they prayed and rejoiced in the plans and purposes God had for all.
I don't think they found talking with me about God a straight forward encounter. My initial response was a scathing rejection of what they believed. I still thank God for each one who took the risk of speaking to me of Jesus for I was consumed by the meaninglessness of life and the terror of death. Atheism a worry free life - even for an optimist, that's a myth.
As we have contact with acquaintances, friends and family who aren't Christian, let's not be intimidated by their scepticism, opposition, ridicule, or total disinterest. Let's be encouraged by the fact that no Christians in the ancient world expected Saul to become a Christian! Yet he did. And let's remember the thousands of men and women in Jerusalem who became Christians even though they had, just a few weeks earlier, participated in the condemnation of Jesus before Pilate. Trust God with our family and friends and keep praying for them, listening to them, caring for them. No one is beyond God.
Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi:
"God is at work in you to will and to act according to his good purpose', and much of that purpose has to do with "shining like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.' Philippians 2:12, 15, 16
Our answer to the Atheist is: "There is God! Stop worrying and discover him.'
Narelle Jarrett is the Sydney Diocese’ Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry