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2CH sermons

Why I believe in God (sermon by Bob Smith)

The scientific world is currently agog with the news that scientists working at the huge Hadron Collider in Switzerland have found what they believe to be the Higgs boson, or God Particle. The Higgs boson is seen as one of the final pieces in the puzzle that explains why objects in our universe have mass—and in so doing, why galaxies, planets, and even humans exist.

To some people this is evidence that the Universe is the result of natural, rather than supernatural causes. But to others it merely takes us a step further in our understanding of how the Universe came into being, but tells us nothing new about why.

One thing that everyone agrees on, though, is that the ancient Christian belief that the Universe was created out of nothing is actually true. But the big question of whether God was or was not behind it all, still stands. And today I want to tell why I believe God was and is.

                                                            *     *     *

Why do I believe in God? Well, firstly, because it still makes more sense to me than the alternative, which is that all that is came into being as a result of an infinite series of mathematically unbelievable accidents. I know that the validity of the traditional philosophical arguments for the existence of God has been questioned in more recent times, but they still make more sense to me than the alternative. The first of these is the argument from cause and effect. For every effect there has to be a cause, and that cause is then the effect of some previous cause and so on, right back to the beginning of time and the very first cause that set it all off.

Those who believe in God say that there exists a supreme intelligence that is, itself, eternal and self existent in a way that is beyond our limited human understanding, and that this supreme intelligence is the first cause whom we call God. Alternatively, those who do not believe in God are left with the choice of either an infinite series of causes and effects that never had a beginning, or the sudden appearance of something out of nothing.

The second of the traditional philosophical arguments is the argument from design. Simple minded though I may be, the old argument put forward by William Paley, known as the teleological argument, still appeals to me. Paley used the illustration of a man walking across a lonely moor and finding a watch lying on the ground.

He has never seen such an instrument before and has no idea what it is for, but he starts to examine it and discovers an intricate arrangement of springs, wheels, cogs and jewels, all ticking away. Then he observes that the hands on the dial move in a pre-determined order. Does he conclude that all this simply came together by chance, or rather that somewhere there was an intelligence that put it all together.

Finally, there is what is known as the ontological argument, which says that the fact that we have a concept of perfection, even though there is nothing in our experience that is perfect, and a longing for meaning to life, raises the question of where we got such a concept. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.’

I realise that none of these arguments is itself foolproof, but I still think they make more sense than the infinite series of mathematically unbelievable accidents which is the alternative.

*     *     *

Why do I believe in God? Another reason is because there’s something in me that’s hardwired to believe. Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychology, said: “We are all born to believe.” Bruce Hood, professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University agrees with him, claiming that supernatural beliefs are hardwired into our brains from birth, and that religions are therefore tapping into a powerful psychological reality.

His work is supported by other researchers who have found evidence linking religious feelings and experience to particular regions of the brain. The findings challenge atheists such as Richard Dawkins who has long argued that religious beliefs result from poor education and childhood ‘indoctrination’.

But the best explanation for this restless desire for something bigger than ourselves, comes from the Bible which simply says: ‘God has put eternity in our hearts,’ – meaning we are hardwired to believe, despite how much we may deny it.

A chaplain friend of mine told me about a group of young soldiers he had for a two day character guidance course. When the question of God came up they all dismissed belief of any kind; except for one. He’d been a boundary rider in Central Queensland before joining the army and had already regaled the group in hilarious language about his exploits in the bush, drinking bouts, brawls and babies born to many girls. But he came right out and said: ‘Wait on, you blokes. Sometimes, as I used to lie under the stars at night, I’d look up; hold my hand before my face and say, there’s more to me than just blood and bone. Do any of you blokes have thoughts like that?’

That opened the door for all of the others who, one by one, confessed their wistful wondering about the meaning of their existence and their longing for a sense of feeling at home in the cosmos. They, like me, were hardwired to believe, even though they wouldn’t admit it in the usual religious terms.

Dr David Tacey of LaTrobe University, in his best-selling book The Spirituality Revolution, talks about this when he says: ‘Our secular society is now realising that it has been running on empty, and has to restore itself at a deep, primal source, a source which is beyond humanity and yet paradoxically at the very core of our experience. It is our recognition that we have now outgrown the ideals and values of the early scientific era which viewed the individual as a sort of efficient machine.’

Why do I believe in God? Because it’s a part of who I am.

*     *     *

Why do I believe in God? I believe in God because many times I’ve sensed His presence in my life. I’m always reluctant to talk about personal experiences because the essence of Christianity is faith – a simple trust in the God whom our innermost beings tell us is there. But sometimes it helps to fall back on personal experiences to reinvigorate our faith.

I often think of New Year’s Day, 1962. I’d only been a committed Christian for about eight months, but my new found faith had become the greatest adventure of my life and I was hungry for more. I went to Manly that day with a friend from my church: young man of about my age who, like me, wanted to know God better.

It was an overcast day and we decided not to go swimming but to walk the beaches, which we did; and then walked to Fairy Bower at the south end of Manly beach. We climbed to the rocky outcrop and sat there looking at the view, when something happened to us that I am totally incapable of describing – or even accurately remembering.

Both of us, simultaneously, were overcome with a sense of a presence that filled us both with something that I can only describe as the most sublime ecstasy. How long we remained in that state I can’t remember – time just did not seem to matter.

Later, as we rode back on the ferry to Sydney, we tried to make sense of what had happened, but could not; except to say that we’d felt the presence of God. We wondered if the beauty of the spot had anything to do with it; but we’ve both been back there many times and not felt the same.

I believe it was one of those rare moments when God peels back the invisible curtain that separates our world of time and space from that spiritual dimension, which I believe is all around us, but which we, limited as we are by the bounds of our material world, cannot touch with our five senses, but which our innermost beings tell us is true.

There have been a couple of other times when that invisible curtain has seemed to open briefly for me and I’ve sensed a joy and peace that is beyond description. There have also been times when I’ve been at my lowest and have been flooded with an overwhelming assurance that I am not alone. Add to these the constant flow of little incidents and happenings that some would say are mere coincidences, but I see as a guiding hand directing my life, and you’ll understand why I believe in God.

*     *     *

I think the reason why many people dismiss the idea of God is because of the Old Testament, Sunday school type language that believers often use, which, though appropriate for six year olds and people who lived in earlier times, is totally unconvincing to people who’ve grown up in a scientific age; presenting God as the Big Man who lives in the sky and sends blessings if we’re good, and disasters if we’re not.

It would be far better if we took hold of that concept that appears at the beginning of John’s Gospel – the concept of the logos – the divine intelligence that is behind all things, and the eternal love that is the great energising force that underlies all life.

Then, like the little blind boy who was out flying a kite that he could not see, and who said: ‘I may not be able to see it, but I sure can feel it tugging;’ even though we can’t see God, we’ll know assuredly that God is there.

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