What do you mean God speaks?

S3E13: Maybe there is no God (Wrestling with God today Pt.1)

February 17, 2023 Paul Seungoh Chung Season 3 Episode 13
What do you mean God speaks?
S3E13: Maybe there is no God (Wrestling with God today Pt.1)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We’re back for 2023. This is the first part of a two-part episode, which explores how today, in our modern, secular society, we wrestle with our belief in God. These two episodes will detail how I’ve thought through the questions and issues years ago when I seriously asked myself, “Maybe there is no God.” 

Because of that, these two episodes are a kind of alternative overview of this series so far, because this entire series was borne out of a journey that began with that very question.

So, this episode and the next will revisit the key questions and ideas that had been presented throughout this series so far in the past episodes, but describe them from a different angle. They are what I learned by having faced the question, “Maybe there is no God,” and wrestling with my beliefs regarding God.

This episode follows how my thinking about the general idea of God has changed, while doing so, and where this eventually led me to. Next episode will follow what questions then confronted me, and why it led me to examine what the Christian Bible testified.
 0:00     Wrestling with our belief in God       
 2:49     What does it mean to ask, "Maybe there is no God"       
 9:50     What is really meant by “God”       
 16:37    What is the question to ask, to find if there is no God       
 21:15    How to begin thinking of reality as “Who”       
 28:11    Where all these questions led me        

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To be the people of God is to wrestle with God, as Jacob wrestled with God.

And we wrestle with God, because all of reality is God speaking, and we contend and strive with all of that. We contend with Life’s every trial; we strive for a life that we’ll find worthwhile and meaningful. For those who believe in God—at least in monotheistic religions such as Christianity—to wrestle with God is to wrestle with everything that reality unfolds, striving and contending with Life itself; they are one and the same

Yet, for many of us today, they no longer mean the same thing. Back in the first episode of this third season, we examined how our concept of God has changed over the recent centuries, so that what “God” really meant in these religious traditions have now been largely forgotten. So, a new question confronts us instead—a question that would have been simply incoherent in the past. 

Is there God at allGod that speaks to us? Jacob wrestled with the possibility that God will not turn to him and bless him; but today, we wrestle with the possibility that there never was any “God” who will turn and bless us. 

To wrestle with God has taken on an additional meaning now; to wrestle with our belief in God. Does God truly speak with people? What they heard from God—what some of us today believe that we hear—are any of it real? And eventually, many of us today find ourselves confronted with this thought. “Maybe everything we’ve believed is wrong.” “Maybe… there is no God.” But, how would we find that out­—that there is no God? 

And it’s easy to imagine why those who believe in God today would wish to avoid facing that question. Yet, just as Jacob had to wrestle with God to become Israel, the ancestor of the people of God, Christians find themselves wrestling with their belief in God in order to continue being the people of God in this generation.

So, before we move on from the life-story of Jacob, to that of his descendants, let’s explore how we find ourselves wrestling with God today in this episode of …

[ music / ]

… "What do you mean, God speaks?" where we explore important ideas, insights, and stories in Christianity, for the skeptics who want to understand religion, to the Christians who have questions about their own beliefs, and everyone in between.

I am Paul Seungoh Chung, and this is our 13th episode of the third season, “‘Maybe there is no God.’ How we wrestle with God today. Part 1.”

[ / music ]

It was during my first year in university that I seriously thought to myself, “Maybe there is no God.” It wasn’t that this thought had never crossed my mind before; but, it wasn’t until then that I really considered how to even think about that question. After all, what would it even mean to say that “there is no God” and why would we say it? The answer isn’t as obvious as you’d think, because what we mean by “God” is far from obvious. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. So, how did I begin thinking about that question?

Today, when we say that “There is no God,” I find that we usually have at least one of these two mindsets. First is when we say, “Those religious people—those Christians— are judgmental, hypocritical, and just unpleasant overall, so, I just don’t want to believe whatever it is that they believe.” Now, I should note that this is a rather prejudiced view, and I see no reason why some bigotry should get a free pass just because it’s toward more “acceptable targets.” Having said that though, I do think that there is something very pertinent and true in this mindset. But, we’ll have to return to that later, because that was obviously not how I began; most Christians in my life tended to be thoughtful, genuine, and kind, and back then, the only time I saw the kind of religious people that turned me off, was when they appeared on TV. I began rather from the second mindset, which is when we ask, “Wait, why should we believe that there is a god anyway?” 

When we ask this question today though, we’re likely asking, “Is there really a reason why we need to believe in ‘God’?” That is, we’re asking: do we need God to answer why the universe exists, or to act morally, or to live our lives? And that is what I asked back then too. Do we need “God” who made this world if science can explain how the universe began, and how everything in Nature works? Do we need “God” to live morally when people can be moral without believing in “God”? And do we need “God” when we can forge ahead in our lives on our own? Yet, there was one question that I had initially forgotten to ask in all of this. What do I really mean by “God”? 

And I really should’ve asked that first. What we explored in the first episode of season three, “What do you mean ‘There’s no God’?” implied that our general idea of God has essentially devolved in the last few hundred years and has become something… less. (&)That in turn raises this following question: What if what most atheists today mean by “God” (at least in popular debates) is not what monotheistic religions around the world has really meant by “God”? Then, what these atheists claim to disbelieve would not actually be “God”. And if so, none of the reasons why they think that “there’s no God,” would be reasons at all. It’d be like listing all the reasons why Superman does not exist, only to conclude that there are no comic book artists. They may have very good reasons to believe that there is no Superman; it’s just that none of that would have anything to do with comic book artists. And I’m not the only one pointing this out; for example, this is a key argument in the book, The Experience of God, written by a Christian philosopher named David Bentley Hart. It was then reviewed in The Guardian by Oliver Burkeman, a journalist who is an atheist himself, and he recommended that every atheist should read that book to make sure that their arguments haven’t been aiming basically at nowhere. [1]

So, what do we mean today by “God” anyway? Well, by “God,” we tend to imagine a god like “Zeus,” or “Odin,” except that he can do everything, know everything, and be everywhere—so, he’s like “Super-Zeus.” This “Super-Zeus” made this universe like how an engineer would design and build a machine, and he judges our actions, rewarding good and punishing evil. And we’ve been asking, do we need to posit such an entity? And atheists would answer no! Our world—our Reality as a whole—runs quite well without this entity (Long time listeners likely caught on to how I’ve just worded all this). 

But, there was something off about this idea of God: not at the surface, mind you, but the pieces didn’t quite fit. For example, according to Christianity, God is “everywhere,” at “all times.” But, if God made the universe, like how an engineer makes a machine, at the very least, God would not be inside the machine he made. Or for another example, devout people often thank God for even the mundane things that happen, like meeting up with their family. Why? That happened without any intervention of this “Super-Zeus.” Or, for yet another example, you know those stories where the “gods” are the villains, and heroes have to fight them?[2] Here’s a question: what if you’re fighting a “god” who is actually all-powerful? Would such “god” just be too powerful to win? But, what about the Genesis account of Jacob wrestling with God? Why did God declare that a mere man, Jacob, has wrestled with God and won? It seemed to me that in religions like Christianity, God is not “all-powerful” in the simplistic sense that he is so powerful that you can never win—it seemed more profound than that. Rather, it is more like, every power—even the power to, say, wrestle with God—is from God, so that if you wrestle with God and actually win, that would also be because of God. The power of “God” is not just greater than that of any other “god,” it seemed fundamentally different. 

And so, I found myself steadily inching toward a different idea of God—which turned out to actually be closer to how Christians, as well as Jews, Muslims, and theists of other religious traditions, have really thought about God. Now, this took me a few years, and it wasn’t that my belief about God changed so completely, so that I no longer believed the same thing. You may remember way back in season one, an episode titled, “Which is the ‘real’ Christianity?” There, I described how our “core” beliefs about things can remain the same while the particular way that we understand those beliefs—what I called an encasing beliefs—can differ or change. One example I gave was how science works within a paradigm; but, you’ll probably have an easier time remembering the other example, which was about how a child’s core belief that “his mother loves him,” can remain the same while his understanding of what it means for his mother to love him will change and develop as he grows older. And so, likewise, from the time I began asking “Maybe there is no God,” my thinking about God changed. 

[ Pendulum / cut ]

So, how did my thinking change? Well, here’s yet another thing that led me to believe something was off about how we think about God, y’know, in our modern, secular society. I noticed it when I delved into the comparative studies of religion. Some of these religions are non-theistic—there is no all-powerful, all-knowing god, no “Super-Zeus”; Buddhism is a good example. But, I noticed that when Christian and Buddhist scholars dialogued with each other, they weren’t asking the questions that we were asking when Christians and atheists debate each other; they didn’t debate whether Buddhists “need” a belief in God, or if Christians have no good reason for that belief. They were instead exploring questions like how the Christian concept of God compares to the Buddhist concept of— for lack of better words—the ultimate reality as it is manifested in the Buddha. There are many religious traditions and philosophical schools that have no belief in a “Super- Zeus,” but Christians in the past have been identifying key ideas in those systems that paralleled their belief in God—whether it was, say, the Platonist idea of the Good, or the Daoist thought on the Dao, or the Hindu Advaita position on the Brahman

So, I thought: maybe we are approaching this all wrong. I once commented in an extra episode that I was more or less an agnostic during my university years, even if one that was deeply respectful of the Gospel of Jesus. I suppose my views then were close to a scientific naturalist, or a secular humanist, at different points, and from those viewpoints, the question about God really did seem to me to be about whether we need to believe that there is a “Super-Zeus” entity that made the universe, or grounded our morality. Yet, as I sensed more and more that most of us in such worldviews don’t seem to really understand what Christianity means by “God,” I thought: instead of asking whether our scientific naturalist or humanist worldviews “need” to believe in an additional entity, this “Super-Zeus,” maybe we should first ask if there is something core to such worldviews that parallel the Christian idea of God. The final push was when I read a rather passing remark by a physicist, Paul Davies, that today, the scientific laws of nature seem to be attributed with the same qualities that have been attributed to God in Christianity. [3]

From that line of thought, I came up with—after a Ph.D in philosophical theology—the ideas that you heard in the very first episode of this series, “S1E1 Why there’s no job for God.” That episode pointed out that what religions like Christianity means by “God,” is not some entity that we’re adding to all the other entities in our reality, and only when we don’t understand something about our universe, or when we can’t do certain things in our lives. Rather, God is Reality—all of reality as a whole that we are engaged with at all times. But, what did that mean specifically in terms of my previous questions?

Well, some scientists, like Stephen Hawking, have stated that we have no need to posit a “God” that made this universe, because the universe, and everything in it, came into being through the laws of nature, which science is well on its way to discover. But, it seemed that what Christianity really means by “God” is not some cosmic engineer that made the universe at some beginning of time, but those very laws of nature that Hawking was talking aboutwhat the Christian Bible calls the Logos of God—God speaking. So, every law that science discovers, or is yet to discover, or even will never discover, is God speaking. We are not discovering something other than God by doing science. This by the way was the key point of episode four of season one, “God, Science, the Universe, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” 

Some of us, with a more humanist view, have bristled at the idea that we need God for our morality. And we asked: shouldn’t it be our own conscience that guides our actions, rather this “god”? Shouldn’t our morality come from our concern for each other, our hopes for a better tomorrow, and the lessons that we’ve learned from our past, rather than from a lawgiver in the sky? And did we not learn from history itself that we flourish together as a species when we are truthful, just, and compassionate, and that when we are deceitful, unjust, and cruel, we will sooner or later perish together? Shouldn’t that motivate us, rather than our fear of some heavenly judge, gazing down at us like some grand inquisitor in the sky? But, it turned out that a key aspect of what is really meant by saying that “God judges our actions,” is that reality unfolds in a particular way in response to how we live—that is God speaking. All of history is what God speaks. And there's that voice of that speaks within you: quietly asking why your world is not as good as you know it can be, as beautiful as it can be, or as loving as it can be, and what it is that you could have done to make it better—that inner voice is what Christianity calls the voice of “God”. This was episode eight of season one, “Why the idea of sin and judgment still grips us.” 

And we have sometimes asked, do we really need God to live our lives when we can forge our own way through life? But, what religions like Christianity really means by “God” is not some sort of wish-granting genie that we call upon only when we’re stuck in life, but the very reality that we’re engaged with at every moment of our lives. And every truth you come upon as you do so is God speaking. This one was episode nine of season one, “What do you mean God speaks?” Now, your inner convictions or conscience or some sudden insight may have led you to choose the right path in life. But, that too would be God speaking—this time, within you—rather like how an author of a story speaks everything in the story, including what’s in the character’s heart.

God is Reality. So, asking whether we “need” God in the examples I listed so far is akin to asking whether we need “reality” to do science, or to act morally, or to live our lives. I suppose the answer is, “yes”; but it’s more that the whole question was nonsensical

[ Pendulum / cut ]

However, none of this made me stop thinking that maybe there is no God; if anything, I was finally at the starting line. See, we’ve been asking the wrong sort of questions to begin finding out whether “There really is no God.” Then, what should we have asked? 

If you are someone with a more skeptical leaning, one question that you would’ve been asking while listening to this so far was probably this: if God is Reality—if that is what you mean by “God”—why not just say, “Reality,” and end it there? Why call that “God” at all? But, thing is, the term, “reality” is rather devoid of content; you may even have realized that we rarely use that word in our everyday life—at least in the way that I’ve used it—and for good reason: it’s too abstract. What we have are quite specific views of what reality is. Perhaps you view it as this collection of physical things that follow laws of nature and chance; or perhaps you view it as a world ruled by super-powerful beings people call “gods”. (Neither, btw, is the Christian view—yes, not even the one with the “gods”. Check the episode, “Why God is not a god” in Season One). So, for Christians and other theists, “God” is a particular way that we view reality as a whole; those who believe in “God” relate to all of reality as Who rather than a what. Or, as Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher in the mid-20th century, would put it, our relationship with God is that of “I-Thou,” and not “I-It.” Which is to say, we address the whole of reality that we are engaged with, as “You,” (I-Thou) rather than an “It” (I-It). And to say that “There is no God” is to say that that view is wrong. 

You can think of it this way. Say, we see someone approaching us from a distance. I then exclaim, “Why, that’s my friend, Peter,” and you say, “No, he’s not.” Now, neither of us are saying there is no one approaching us; someone is coming. But, we disagree on who that someone is. [4] Likewise, no one asks whether there is “reality”. Of course there is. Ok, you may have heard of some philosophers who seem to say just that, but they’re not –really- saying that there is no reality; what they mean is that whatever we say about reality is not what reality truly is—in fact, their view of reality is specific; something that can never be put into words, or even thought of—but all of that’s a different issue.[5] So, again, none of us thinks that there is no reality, period. But, we do question particular views of reality. 

Some of us may then ask, “Why have any view of reality at all? Why not just say, we don’t know?” And we don’t; none of us “know” everything there is to know about reality. But, even so, we still have to live our lives. What I mean is: the way we live, the goals we set for ourselves, the way we treat each other, all means that we still have a specific view of reality—what we call a “worldview”.[6] For example, if you’ve been studying to be, say, a school teacher, you believe that you have what it takes to be one, and that it is worth teaching our children, and that technology won’t make your job obsolete in the next twenty years, and that our world won’t just unravel tomorrow. Now, all of that needs to be true, but you can’t know for sure they are; but, you live as if they are. Or, again, take science. If you are a scientist, then you too have a specific view of reality; that there are rational principles or structure to reality, and that we can learn about them and describe them—which again, is the idea of the Logos of God in Christianity. But, it is logically possible that this view is wrong; maybe reality is just a pure chaotic flux, and rationality and laws that science has discovered are illusions to be dispelled tomorrow. But, we do science as if our view of reality is true. All of us relate to reality around us in a very particular way, whether we’re aware of it or not, just by the way we live. 

And so, we’ve arrived at the question that was posed at the end of the episode that began this series: why would those who believe in God relate to Reality as “You”—a Person? And what would it even be like to relate to all of reality in such a way?

[Pendulum / cut ]

This is where my efforts to understand what we really mean by “God” confronted a new formidable obstacle; when my thoughts first reached this point years ago, I had to ask, how can the whole of reality be a “Who”—a person? Now, if Christianity was simply positing a “Super-Zeus” like deity, we could at least imagine how it could be a person of some sort—even if one that’s invisible and immaterial, and quite possibly unneeded for our science or morality. But, what would it mean for all of reality as a whole to be a Person that we address as “You,” and in a conversation no less? 

Then, it turned out that there was yet another level to the question—as if I needed more of that! During my university years, I browsed through my father’s textbook on standard Christian Theology—if you listened to a recent extra episode this season, titled, “Examples from my personal experience” you may remember that my father was called into ministry late in his life, and had to go to a seminary.[7] In that book, I came across an idea that I found to be particularly striking. The idea itself is supposed to be fairly basic—again, standard textbook of Christian theology. And the idea was: everything we say about God is an analogy. (Now, if you have some difficulty grasping the exact difference between analogy, metaphor, and simile, don’t worry about it for now; the main point is the same) So, when Christians say, “God is wise,” it does not mean that God is wise in the same way that a human person is wise—unless you count Jesus, but that’s a special case. But, we say, God is wise, because something about a wise human person is like God; or to put it exactly, when we try to relate to God, an analogy of us being guided by a wise person, is better than an analogy of us being misled by a foolish person.

So, why is it that we can speak about God only through analogies? Well, you may have noticed throughout this series that I go back and forth on two different phrases when describing God in the most general terms. I say, “God is Reality”; but, I also say, “All of reality is God speaking”. Strictly speaking, in Christianity, the latter is more correct; all of reality is what God speaks in creating the world. Anything we can ever say is limited to the things inside our reality that God has spoken, rather than directly to God, and by that, I do mean every possible thing that we can ever say or think; if you want to know more, check the episode, “God before Genesis,” which is right before season two. So, it turns out that from the Christian perspective, people who’ve argued that there is no reality that we can ever speak about, were reaching for an important truth. And btw if you’re asking, “Wait, if all of reality is what God is speaking, aren’t you really saying that God actually is some ‘Super-Zeus’ entity that’s outside our reality?”, remember: there is no “outside” to all of reality, since the “outside” is also part of reality, see? Now, don’t complain that your head hurts—I know from experience some of you are saying that now. This is the limit of using analogies, and everything we say of God is an analogy.  

Now, I have to confess that when I first came across this idea, a part of me did wonder, “Maybe what Christians say about God—like how God speaks forth all of reality—is just some grand- sounding nonsense. And they’re just covering that up by saying that it’s an analogy!” But, I eventually realized that we often do resort to metaphors and analogies to describe reality, whether in the fields of philosophy, or even science. What I learned back then became the episode six of season one, “What to remember when speaking about God?” or a.k.a. “Why everything we say about God comes with a caveat.” Take this popular term from science like the “fabric of space-time,” which apparently gets torn, a lot, if we were to believe sci-fi movies or marvel comic books. That term is actually an analogy; space -time is not actually a fabric that we weave and wear. But, we call it that because of the limit of our language; we’re trying to characterize what space-time is really like, as best as we can with our everyday language—in this case, we say, “fabric of space-time,” because Einstein has shown that space-time is not simply, well, space and time, but a thing that can bend and stretch like fabric from, say, gravitational fields and such. 

And the thing is: “reality” is really complex—infinitely complex. And our language and concepts are too limited to truly describe anything completely—let alone all of reality as a whole. We can, however, characterize how reality is like as a whole, with words and concepts that are available to us. So, to say that God speaks forth all of reality, is not some non-sensical, mystical formula to aggrandize God; it is saying something quite specific—that all of reality is like a speech and unfolds like a story. It is saying that this characterization of reality is better than other characterizations, like say, a mass of inert things. (I mean, our reality does have physical things, obviously, but they move like they’re participating in an ongoing story, or being moved by some dynamic codes, or laws.) And it’s more than that: all matter and energy can pop into existence from literally nothing—or as some physicists put it, though the laws of physics, which is, well, closer to language and speech than gas and rocks. So, some analogies are better than others. 

And I haven’t been explaining all this, just to give you a lesson on the finer points of Christian theology. When Christians say that God is personal—that reality is a Who— even that is an analogy. So, my next question regarding the belief in God was: is that really the best analogy— the best characterization? After all, it’s one thing to say that reality is like a speech, in that there are principles and laws that define how the universe forms and structures itself, and in that all of history does unfold in ways we can narrate as a story. However, it’s quite a different thing to say that this speech-like character means that we can personally address all of reality as “You,” and even more, expect to receive a response, and then carry a conversation.

[ Short pendulum ]

There was one ongoing debate that I knew of, that could possibly lead to a conclusive answer for this question. Science has discovered that the laws of physics that structure our universe is extremely precise—and I’m speaking about such a narrow range of numbers that it’d be just easier to win jackpot in a lottery several times in a row; and this precision of the laws of nature is fine-tuned for Life, and thus for personal beings like us, to exist in this universe. This has led to a prolonged debate between the more scientifically-minded theists and atheists, which is still ongoing today—though I think it has subsided in the recent years because of the possibility that we live in a multiverse, most of which we presume aren’t fine-tuned like ours, except of course, none of that’s proven either. Now, if the universe is indeed fine-tuned—that is, engineered–so that we could exist, then it would mean that personal beings like us were the sole purpose of this universe, and all the rest were just the steps needed to get to us. And perhaps that is how reality truly is; perhaps, that is what God has been speaking. But, as far as I could tell, that was not the Christian view of God; if anything, the Genesis Creation account in the Christian Bible, seemed to contradict this view, since the reason why God created the cosmos in that account was, at least at first, simply so that something can exist and something can happen. If you want to know more, that was the episode three in season two, “Creation – what is the purpose of it all?” Of course, if it turns out that the universe is fine-tuned, then I suppose it means that not only is reality a Who, a personal God, but that Creation has a much more limited purpose than what Genesis suggested. But, even if turns out that the universe is not fine-tuned, it wouldn’t answer my question about God, and how to relate to reality as a whole, since personal God may very well have reasons other than us to speak forth reality, or maybe even no specific and set purpose at all. So, as far as I was concerned, scientists could figure out on their own about this fine-tuning issue, and get back to me. 

There was another debate that could also lead to a conclusive answer, though this time in an opposite direction. Those who believe in God also believe that God is good—that is, not only do they relate to all of reality, as Who, but as a Person that is benevolent and good. But, of course, evil is part of our reality; our experience of evil is undeniable and universal, and strongly implies that any belief in God that is good, is simply wrong. Now, the question of evil and God is a rather huge topic, so we’d need to explore that in other episodes—though we’ve partly done so regarding humans perpetrating evil, in episode eleven of season one, “how evil lurks behind Christianity,” as well as the second half of season two, which explores the Genesis account of the Fall, the first murder, and the Flood. But, the main reason why we haven’t explored this topic in depth yet is this: when I first thought about the question of evil and God, I was rather puzzled by how people asked this question. For me, the real question wasn’t why there is evil when God is supposed to be good—but rather, why people would think that “God” is good in the first place. Why not an evil god, or a capricious god, or at least, an amoral god? How I began thinking about this question became the episode six of this third season, “Why would you think that God is good?” And I think we can begin to seek our answer in the fact that even though evil seems to be part of what reality unfolds in our lives, goodness is also there, and not only that, we are part of reality, and with that, our moral sense of what is good.   

At any rate, neither debates seemed promising to really lead me anywhere further, at least, on their own. But, that was to be expected. Let’s turn back to how I phrased the question about what it means to believe in God: it is about our particular view of reality. But, remember what I said about our views of reality? We don’t just think it; we live it out. So, to characterize all of reality as a whole as Who that speaks, and speaks to us, isn’t some purely intellectual exercise—some sort of a contest for best descriptions. It is about how to live. So, my real question was: what happens if we live out the belief that reality as a whole is more like a person, than say, like a rock?

That was what the Christian Bible was supposed to describe and testify: Lives of people. That, btw was season one, episode twelve, “In what ways the Bible is, and is not, the Word of God.” So, in the end, it seemed that what I needed to do was to go and hear from those who came up with this view of reality in the first place: people who wrote the Bible, people who lived in the stories that Bible tells. Why did they come to believe that all of reality as whole was a Who? Why did they feel that they can personally address the whole of reality that they were engage with, as “You,” and that it—or rather He—will speak with them? Why did they come to believe that this reality—this “God”—was good in the first place? Or even more, that “God” was loving, and faithful? What did they experience? What life did they live? And can I really believe what they testified?

[ Genesis Music ]

And I found that all those questions that I had went through were in the end, just to get to this point. Now, I could begin the next part of the journey—perhaps, the real part.

When I first asked, years ago, “Maybe there is no God,” it seemed that God was nowhere to be found. But, that was because I did not know where to really look. God will not be found by looking for any particular thing, no matter how grand and powerful they seem, nor even in some imagined, exalted realm beyond this universe. I had to cast my gaze wider—to the widest—to all of reality, and nothing less.

And it seemed that to hear God, I’d need to turn my ears toward everything: to every truth, from every source, from our studies of the world, from the thoughts of our hearts, from all of history itself. 

To wrestle with my belief in God, I would need to wrestle with everything, with every question that I could ask, to think every thought, to grasp at every insight, to understand as far as I can, everything that I’m faced with in life. If I were to find God, then it would need nothing less. 

But, if what Christianity says of God is true—if it is not a mistake to relate to all of reality as a whole, as Who that speaks, and personally addresses us—then, it is not just that I will wrestle with my questions to find God, but that God will find me. 

Because that’s what it means. God will initiative, and speak. That is the story that the Christian Bible testifies. So, my next step was: if I follow through the stories that the Bible testify, will God find me? And that’s the risk: part of this journey is outside my control, outside my hands; as I look for God, God needs to look at me. After all, that’s what it means to form a personal relationship.

And so, I wrestled with God. 

That is what you’ve been hearing; not just this episode, but the entire series so far, and the rest of the series that will follow. What has come about, as I wrestled with God.

For to be the people of God, is to wrestle with God. 

[ End music ]

So, please join me for part 2 of this episode, as I move from the initial questions that maybe there is no God, to confront the reality—or perhaps the lack of reality—of what the Bible testified. “Risking belief for faith – How we wrestle with God today Part 2.”

And please support this series, by following, subscribing, and sharing this series with others, and by rating it on your apple podcast platform. You can also support this series at buymeacoffee.com. The link for that is in the episode description.



[1] In The Experience of God, David Bentley Hart incisively critiques the way modern and contemporary critics of religion have understood the very idea of God—their view is so off that most of their criticisms, whether from science, philosophy, or elsewhere, would not even apply to the real idea. In fact, religious thinkers would make the same, but much more refined criticisms against such a poorly conceived idea. 

[2] One example I can think of is the game series, God of War, where the protagonist single-handedly depopulates Olympus of its Greek gods. 

[3] Paul Davies, and later quoted by Alister McGrath, lists it this way: the laws of nature are absolute, eternal, omnipotent, and universal—that is, omnipresent. “Eternal” and “Omnipresent” are self-explanatory; they are absolute in that Nature follows it without exception, omnipotent in that everything that can ever happen is under its scope.

[4] This, by the way, was the example given by St. Thomas Aquinas some 700 years ago or so—though in this particular example, he was defining God as “Happiness,” though by “Happiness,” he means something like the genuine experience of being truly complete.

[5] To be specific, their position is something like: whatever anyone thinks or claims is reality, is not truly reality, because there can be no true representation of reality, wither because our language is inadequate, or—and this is a rather extreme version of this view—language as such is incapable of doing so. So, this is more about us and our limitations than whether there is reality.

[6] By now, you probably have a fair idea of why my first book is titled, God at the Crossroads of Worldviews

[7] If you were wondering, it is titled, “Christian Theology,” written by Alister McGrath. One of the most widely read seminary-level theology textbook at that time.

Wrestling with our belief in God
What does it mean to ask, "Maybe there is no God"
What is really meant by “God”
What is the question to ask, to find if there is no God
How to begin thinking of reality as “Who”
Where all these questions led me