Friday, June 22, 2007

Applied Apologetics: Conversations/Dialogues that Count

No. 1. Should we see God in order to believe that He exists?

It was an Open Forum on the Question of God’s existence in a Collage auditorium. The participants were all science students. During the Q&A time, one of the students posed these questions: Is God visible? Alternatively, can we see God? If not, how can we believe that God exists? By way of answering, I raised a few questions in return: Are you sure that your great-grandfather had existed? He answered, “Yes.” Then I asked, "Have you even seen him?" This time the answer was in the negative. Then I asked, are you still sure that you have a great-grand father who existed at some time in the past? He was apparently a little annoyed and stunned at the same time. He realized that although he had not seen his great-grandfather, he was sure that he existed. I gently pointed to him that he was sure about the existence of his great-grandfather whom he had not seen because he himself was in existence at that point of time and then made the point that ‘seeing’ is not the only basis for believing. He nodded in agreement and sat down.

Then I directed a question to the audience: How many of you believe that electrons exist? Everyone present responded in unison in the affirmative. I went on to raise another question: How many of you have ever seen an electron? The only answer I got was hush silence. It seemed that they got the point. I clarified the truth that though we cannot see an electron, we do not doubt its existence, because we have indirect evidence (its effects) that it exists. I also mentioned that there are many entities that are important in the scientific realm but they cannot be seen (they are invisible). They all nodded in agreement and I went on to make the following final comments.

The question of the origin of the universe brings the question of God’s existence to the surface. God is that invisible cause behind the cosmos who brought the universe into existence. Because He existed before space-time-matter existed, He must be non-physical and therefore we cannot see Him (He is invisible). This is not only reflective of God’s non-physical/material nature, but more of our own finiteness – our limited ability to see or perceive. We cannot or are not able to see God. However, there are many indirect evidences for God’s existence. Therefore, our inability to see something or someone does not prove that the entity in question does not exist. At this point, the student who raised the original question and almost everyone in the audience nodded in agreement. This is an instance of applying apologetics or principles of apologetics (particularly the art of asking right questions in dialogues and moving them towards truth) in a practical real life situation that is still fresh in my memory after many years.

Note: A shorter version of this was published in Apologia: Reasoned Answers for Life (January – March 2003, p. 19).

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