For this short blog post I will be referencing the following video:
I love Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I love this short video excerpt on his thoughts about the existence of God. There are two points he hits on in this video that I think the Christian church has really failed to respond to adequately.
First: the best answer that most Christian churches have given regarding the problem of evil, as in “why is it that an all-power God would allow such tragedies, sicknesses, and outright evil to exist if He is powerful enough to eradicate them?”, is that God has some hidden purpose behind it. We especially ask this question when innocent young children, or cherish loved ones, die/struggle with health issues, or when mass disasters take place.
From the pulpit, we are told that this personal, relational, loving God could do something about evil, but just decides not to for His own unknown reasons. Christians then either say that, “I don’t know why God allowed this thing to happen, but God had a reason for this”, or ultra-conservatives will cite that since we are all sinners, and so utterly disgusting in God’s sight, that God has the right to enact judgement on us at any time
To both of these responses, I—and possibly folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson as well—would say “Really? Is that the best explanation you have to offer?”
When we start attributing to an Almighty God responsibility for acts we would never ourselves do to our own children, I’m sorry, but most of us with a brain and a little bit of compassion totally check-out. You can quote the Isaiah 55:8-9 all you want to us, but you have lost us before you even got there.
Second: People are actually pretty open to considering tangible evidence of God’s existence—including, as he openly states, Neil deGrasse Tyson. If there is a “God” out there to be known, then just show us! But from my experiences with evangelical Christians in America, most of the evidence offered consists of fear-mongering—fear about going to hell for eternity and fear about God’s judgement for our wrongful actions. I can tell you that from experience that there is nothing compelling in that. There is no proof in that—just fear and anxiety. However, fear, guilt, and anxiety are GREAT motivators. And such persuasive tactics WILL indeed fill churches, whether there is truth in them or not.
I think Neil deGrasse Tyson has it right. He makes some great points in support of atheism or agnosticism while at the same time maintaining an open heart for the possibility of something out there, yet undiscovered, that might be supernatural.
I just want to say that for those of us out there who want to believe in a Christ-like, relational God, even despite all of the crap you’ve heard from church, or heard from church-goers, or seen from Christian radicals holding signs on the street corners, or from what you’ve seen on Christian TV, that there are in fact others among us with orthodox perspectives who humbly identify as Christians and who do not see the suffering in the world/universe as the result of omnipotent decrees. Yes, there are other ways to look at the chaos in the universe rather than attributing it to a vengeful, wrathful, angry God who is looking to give people what they deserve whenever He randomly chooses. For me, personally, I find that wonderful alternative view manifest in the person and life of Jesus. I have written about that in a 4-part blog series called, “Understanding the Book of Job, Satan, and God’s Sovereignty from the perspective of Jesus and the Cross” (www.theflowage.com). It is a perspective at looking at the problem of evil, yet not unique to me, that is quite different than what most other traditional churches espouse.
And to speak about the tangibility of God, and “evidence” of His existence, what I also find interesting is that Jesus’s life and ministry showed that rather than proving God’s existence by some big miraculous sign, scientific discovery, or by some great act of sovereign power or might/force over people, Jesus manifested God’s existence through humble servitude, compassion and healing for those who are sick and lowly, and unconditional LOVE among all persons. And He said that the proof that we ought to be looking for would be found from within the conduct, character, and outwardly focused LOVE of the people who claim they have “found” Him (John 13:35). Again, the Christian church has failed to be compelling on this point as well. And admittingly, so have I—miserably. I ask your forgiveness.
So, thank you Neil deGrasse Tyson for your honesty and openness. Your perspective is invaluable and appreciated. And to those who still hope that a loving God exists, I encourage you to seek for the Jesus-Looking-God we all desire to see, despite the experiences and rhetoric you have been subjected to in American Christianity and most varieties of Christianity around the world. I earnestly believe that there is a tangible and living Jesus-Looking-God out there who is excitedly waiting for us to come into relationship with Him. Let’s seek Him out and trust that God is someone who rewards those who diligently search for Him (Hebrews 11:6).
*As always, I’d love to hear what’s on your mind so please drop your thoughts in the comment section below!