A church we attend recently started a sermon series with an accompanying Wednesday night discussion group. The aim is to invite people to ask tough questions and share a discussion amongst the group. They desire to reason together to work through some The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (which is the title of the book that the sermons and discussions are based on). That’s the paperback and Kindle link. Here’s the iBooks link in case you want to check it out on an Apple device. This book addresses 10 main questions/themes that (based on a large survey) Christians are most afraid that they will be asked. The goal is to find answers in the book and then discuss them together so they can learn how to share their reasons for belief with confidence. But they also want the meetings to be a place where doubts can be discussed and challenges raised. I didn’t know about the Wednesday night meeting in time to attend the first week’s discussion, but I did attend week 2’s meeting tonight.
I applaud the church for doing this. It was a small, rather intimate environment with a little over 20 people in attendance. There was a table set up in the middle of the room, not unlike Pascal’s table where a number of us gather at our monthly détente. The church meeting seemed to be entirely Christian voices, and not being public with my disbelief, I kept silent.
What I’d like to do is share the questions they’re discussing from the book each week and see if any of you would like to provide your thoughts in response. I know the pastor has seen this blog and I’ll ask him to look again as the comments roll in. That might help round out the discussions a bit without putting me in the spotlight.
Here is the theme and discussion questions from week 1, which I missed:
What makes you so sure that God exists at all – especially when you can’t see, hear, or touch him?
- Why might someone think you should believe only in things you can see, hear, or touch? What are some other things you believe in, in addition to love, that you can’t see or experience directly through your senses?
- What are some things you can talk about from your own experience that show you—and might convince your friends—that God really exists?
- How does the fact that our universe had a beginning or the fact that it’s fine-tuned with such exacting precision provide evidence for God?
- Do you think there could be objective morality apart from God? From where would it draw its authority?
- How has the evidence for God presented in this chapter affected your faith? Can evidence strengthen one’s faith?
And week 2, which I attended:
Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and knowledge?
- Why do people tend to separate God and science as if the two cannot coexist?
- The theory of evolution is just that—a theory that has never been proven in all its claims. Why, then, do so many people treat it as fact?
- Some have said that it takes more faith to believe that there isn’t an intelligent designer than to believe that there is one. What information from the chapter would support this statement?
- This chapter describes three “missing elements” that have to be in place for Darwin’s theory to even be a theoretical possibility: the origin of the universe (and all matter), the origin of the first living organism, and the encoding of information in DNA. Which of these could you best use to point your friends to God?
- React to the statement, “Our goal . . . is to lead friends to faith—not to initially change their minds about every conceivable question or topic we might discuss with them.” What other social or scientific topics might this relate to? In what ways can Christians focus on Jesus and salvation first
- Briefly describe the differences between Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, and Theistic Evolution. How can we move past these differences when we talk to our friends who don’t know Christ?
- How would you describe the problems in the fossil record related to evolution?
In this week’s group we only made it to question 1. The answers provided by the group were all from the Christian perspective and I did not interject another point of view. J (CC) might attend in my place next week (one of us will be taking our 4-year-old to gymnastics class during that time every week) and she might not be silent as I was if someone says (as they did this week) that scientists (which seem to mostly be viewed as synonymous with atheists) perceive a conflict with Christianity because they want to stay in control (rather than cede control to a God), avoid accountability for their actions, be their own Gods, rely only upon “assumptions and proofs rather than faith”, etc., or that Stephen Hawking confessed on his deathbed that God exists – which proves God and science do coexist (Stephen may be surprised to hear this).
I don’t mean to paint their answers in a poor light and there were some decent ones. However, I don’t want to spend anymore time on them because most of their answers don’t do justice to the views of the more scientifically literate intellectual Christians I know or know of, such as Pascal, Francis Collins and Hans Halvorson. The people I listened to today may have answers that sound off-putting to doubters, but they are making an attempt to learn. They are our fellow humans who are just trying to figure this out, going with what they know, and just aren’t very informed in some of the topics or have come to different conclusions (possibly for rational reasons). They want to reason together so they can feel confident enough to begin reasoning with their doubting friends. They’re trying. I deeply respect these people despite our differences and I honestly feel they do want to understand more about your doubts, if you have any, so they can understand and help. I’m so glad they’re doing this.
If any question jumps out at you (whatever you’re theistic position), please respond with any thoughts you have. I hope that some of your responses will get back to the church group so we can add more perspectives and increase the mutual understanding (which is one goal of this blog).
Gentleness and respect,