Q:What makes the best ‘case for God’ to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?
1) The message of scripture?
2) The scientific evidence for an Intelligent Designer?
3) The ‘words’ that God has ‘spoken’ – Torah, Jesus, the Qur’an?
4) A compassionate lifestyle?
5) Personal, subjective experience?
— Karen Armstrong
I’m in Australia at the moment, where weekly church attendance is around 6 or 7 percent (compared to near 40 percent in many parts of the U.S.). Interestingly, over 60 percent of Aussies will affirm their respect or reverence for Jesus. One still hears the response, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual,” when one asks about matters of faith. I’ve heard it several times just in the last few days. So my suspicion is that for many people in the West, the issue is less with God than it is with church and religion.
Based on my experience with the open-minded spiritual seekers I meet in my travels, I’d say all of Karen’s elements play a part, but here’s how I’d rank them and why:
1. A compassionate lifestyle — Many good-hearted people are seeking God but don’t want to add to the ranks of the religious and bigoted, the religious and violent, the religious and elitist, and so on. So affiliating with faith in God means they need to find people who embody a compassionate lifestyle.
2. Personal, subjective experience — People begin to feel there’s “something more,” and that often leads to a sense of “someone more.”
3. The spoken words from God – I think Karen is spot on when she recognizes that for Christians, God’s ultimate Word is not a book, but a person.
4. Scripture – Although many people I talk with have deep questions about Scripture, people often begin to get a sense for who that “someone more” might be as they engage with the text.
5. Scientific evidence – I’ve often found this is helpful for people who have already taken a step of faith, more as confirmation than as persuasion, but I know that for many, until they can remove intellectual or evidential obstacles to faith, they don’t want to make a commitment to believe.
But again, I would say that the most contradictory evidence for faith in God brings us back to #1: believers marked more by arrogance than compassion or make-believe than wisdom.