By the Nightwatch Priest
The atheist does not believe that God exists. The agnostic says that he does not know and that nothing can be known about God. The Christian claims to know God personally. Who is right?
The lost question in the lost issue was: If there is no Designer, what is the alternative? That the spider’s web, the human eye, the star-spangled heavens, the mind of man, is all due to “a fortuitous concourse of atoms”! But design is evident not only in the parts: a great purpose seems to be moving towards some “end” (Greek telos, hence teleological), there is “one far-off divine event to which the whole creation moves”. (Compare Rom 8: 18-22)
(ii) Conscience – The philosopher, Kant, declared that two things filled him with ever increasing wonder and awe: “the starry heavens, above, and the moral law within” (see Psalm 19).
If the existence of God is written in nature, still more is His eternal moral law written in human nature. All men have this sense of inborn sense of right and wrong and “show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith” (Rom. 2: 15).
This sense of obligation or duty, this “categorical imperative” is extremely powerful and persistent as may be seen in the experience of remorse and guilt. Attempts to explain it away as tribal, custom, racial habits, social convention, are sheer evasions of the facts for we all know from within, directly instinctively that “I am accustomed” is not the same as “I ought.” In any case, how could Jeremiah, the prophet (to take one example), have withstood the social conventions of his age in the name of God and His law if our sense of right is simply the product of social custom?
The pioneers of right are precisely those who have withstood racial habits and social conventions! This moral consciousness of man must have a source higher than itself; if man feels “I ought” there must be one who says “thou shalt”.
(iii) Religion – When the Apostle Paul visited Athens he observed that even the pagans of that city were “most religious” and went on to say that God had created all men “that they should seek God if haply they might feel after him and find him”.
It is significant that men of all ages have been “most religious,” as the great world religions, with all their varieties of belief and practice, testify. As Martin Luther said “man must have God or an idol”.
(iv) History – Much may be learned from the stirring story of the human race in general, especially concerning the inevitable punishment of evil. Here the divine footsteps may often be traced in retribution, in justice and in judgment as we have seen in the history of Europe.
But even to a man with no religious beliefs, the story of one particular race is astonishing. How do we account for Israel? For her existence and career is a fact even to a pagan.
(v) Christ – The existence of Jesus Christ is likewise a fact of history. How then do we account for that fact? No one has, of course, the right to answer this question unless he has exposed himself to that fact.
Read sincerely the teaching of Jesus and the story of his deeds; look at the character depicted in the Gospel story and observe the manner of his death. Listen to what he says about himself, and to the testimony of many eye-witnesses concerning his resurrection.
It is in the fact of Jesus that God meets man personally. In nature is his hand, in history his footsteps: but in Christ we see his face. To those who have not met him the question “Is there a God?” is replaced by the confident confession,” My Lord and my God”.