I often find myself in situations in which people
ask me questions about faith. The questions come in many forms: “Why are you a
pastor and not a scientist?” “Why do you still dabble in science when you are a
pastor?” “How can you believe in a Creator in this scientific world?” “How can
you believe in godless science in a created world?” “How can a man of
scientific principles like you, have faith that is not backed up by empirical
science and logic?” I usually answer these questions by pointing out that I do
not find contradiction between Science and Faith, Creation and Evolution, and
Logic and Belief. Before long, the conversation works its way to the more
foundational questions. At this level, the questions are fewer but the answers
are more difficult. The two I hear most often are these, “If God is good, why
does he allow horrible suffering in my life (my friend’s life, the world)?” and
“If God wants us to believe in him, why doesn’t he make it easier by simply
proving his existence?”
The former question is likely the most
difficult one and the one about which I will not attempt to write today. I have
written about this elsewhere (
and many more worthy writers have written upon this theme in large tomes and
short articles.
As a beginning to an answer to the second
question, I rely upon several authors who have addressed this question. In this
blog, I wish to consolidate some of the quotes and logical processes for you
the reader, but more likely, for myself.
C.S. Lewis has been a “go-to person” for
myself and many others and I still find him incredibly helpful on this topic.
In The Screwtape Letters, he asks us
to imagine a conversation between a senior and a junior demon in which the
senior instructs the junior on the most effective methods for tempting and
controlling a young man. Screwtape, the senior demon, explains why God does not
show himself more plainly to humans.
You must have often
wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly
present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now
see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the
very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will
(as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would
certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.
Lewis wrote these words in 1942 and they still
have weight today. They describe a God who has chosen to make himself
resistible. He will woo humans, but will not force them to submit to his will.
Wendell Berry does something similar in his
book, Jayber Crow, and perhaps better
explains how even the “faintest and mitigated” presence of God would over-ride
human will. Berry says,
“Christ did not
descend from the cross except into the grave. And why not otherwise? Wouldn’t
it have put fine comical expressions on the faces of the scribes and chief
priests and the soldiers if at that moment He had come down in power and glory?
Why didn’t He do it? Why hasn’t He done it at any one of a thousand good times
between then and now?
He didn’t, He
hasn’t, because from the moment He did, He would be the absolute tyrant of the
world and we would be His slaves. Even those who hated Him and hated one
another and hated their own souls would have to believe in Him then. From that
moment the possibility that we might be bound to Him and He to us and us to one
another by love forever would be ended. … Those who wish to see Him must see
Him in the poor, the hungry, the hurt, the wordless creatures, the groaning and
travailing beautiful world.”
I appreciate both forms of
this answer because they rely upon story, metaphor, and logic, all at the same
time. As others have eloquently noted, sometimes poetry is the only means
available to us to express our thoughts about God. Poetry allows us to make
clear things that would otherwise remain opaque.
As the nineteenth-century
Anglican theologian Charles Gore rightly insisted:
Human language never can express adequately
divine realities. A constant tendency to apologize for human speech … is always
present to the mind of theologians who know what they are about, in conceiving
or expressing God.” “We see,” says St. Paul, “in a mirror, in terms of a
riddle;” “we know in part.” “We are compelled,” complains St. Hilary, “to
attempt what is unattainable, to climb where we cannot reach, to speak what we
cannot utter; instead of the mere adoration of faith, we are compelled to
entrust the deep things of religion to the perils of human expression.”
Newbigin, takes us deeper into the mind of the scientist, the theologian, and
the Creator when he points out that we must indeed have a “humble apologetic”
about such questions. In his book, Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and
Certainty in Christian Discipleship
Newbigin reminds us of the proper place of such conversations,
Cause is
something that can be discovered by observation and reason. Purpose is not
available for inspection because, until the purpose has been realized, it is
hidden in the mind of the one whose purpose it is. Suppose that going along a
street, we observe men at work with piles of bricks and bags of cement, and we
guess that a building is being erected. What is it to be? An office? A house? A
chapel? There are only two ways to discover the answer: we can wait around
until the work is complete and inspection enables us to discover what it is. If
we cannot wait until then, we must ask the architect, and we will have to take
his word for it. If the work in question is not the building of a house but the
creation and consummation of the cosmos, the first alternative is not available
to us. We shall not be present to examine the end product of cosmic history. If
the whole thing has any purpose (and of course we may decide, as postmoderns
do, that it has no purpose), the only way we can know that purpose is by a disclosure
from the one whose purpose it is, a disclosure which we would have to take on
trust. There is no escape from this necessity. The modern antithesis of
observation and reason on the one hand versus revelation and faith on the other
is only tenable on the basis of a prior decision that the whole cosmic and
human history has no purpose and therefore no meaning. It is possible to make
this assumption, but it is not necessary. The question whether the cosmos and
human life within it have any purpose other than the individual purposes we
seek to impose on things is one that cannot be decided by observation. If we
live with a prior assumption that human life has no purpose; then we shall act
accordingly, and there will be no possibility whatsoever of discovering its
It is these and other authors
such as Flannery O’Conner
and Francis Collins
who, for me, help to make sense of the thoughts already in my head. They permit
me to ask the difficult questions; they allow me to formulate my own answers;
and they point me to truth.
What are some of the
questions you are having about faith? Is one of your questions listed above? Do
you have a different, more compelling question? Might I direct you toward
someone who has answers to your questions? Let us together engage in “humble
apologetics” and see where it might lead us.

[1] I suggest one start
with The Problem of Pain written by C.S. Lewis available here
http://www.samizdat.qc.ca/cosmos/philo/PDFs/ProblemofPain_CSL.pdf and progress to a more academic work such
as The Cambridge Companion to the Problem
of Evil,
Meister and Moser, Cambridge University Press, 2017 or Evolutionary Theodicy: Towards an
Evangelical Perspective
,  Bethany
Sollereder, Regent College, 2010.
[2] Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. New York: MacMillan
Publishing Co., Inc, 1980, p. 38, 39.
[3] Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, Counterpoint,
p. 173-174.
[4] Alister McGrath, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of
Life (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1998), 157.
[5] Newbigin, L. (1995). Proper
Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship.
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 57, 58.
[6] What people don’t
realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket,
when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to
believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open
mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave
the rest to God.”
― Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
[7] Francis Collins in The Language of God. “the tools of
science are not the right ones to learn about Him. (…) The evidence of God’s
existence would have to come from other directions, and the ultimate decision
would be based on faith, not proof.” (p. 30).

Dive in!

Join The Great Journey with KeithShields.ca subscribers, and see new posts as they happen.

We promise we’ll never spam.