I would like to revisit a lengthy discussion I had with a friend some time ago when we talked about what would make me revert to my former belief in God, Jesus and Christianity. A bit of a disclaimer though, I’ve actually had this dialogue with several people so the conversation I’m about to relate may not exactly have come from one source but several, and I don’t necessarily remember who exactly said what. But to keep this narrative simple, I’ll write as if the arguments were coming from only one person, whom I shall call Marduk.
So Marduk asks me what it would take for me to be a believer again, and I say I’ll take the Thomas option. When the disciples told Thomas that a resurrected Jesus had appeared to them, he didn’t believe them and instead said that unless he sees the nail marks and touches the wounds of Jesus, he would not believe (John 20:24-29).
In a similar fashion, it would take a personal, vivid and conscious experience of the reality of God for me to believe again. If God was good enough to grant Thomas that privilege, then why should I not have the same?
After all, Christians like to talk about God wanting to have a relationship with us humans. How can he expect to have a relationship with me if he doesn’t even show himself; if the only way I can know him is by hunches and feelings that are prone to subjective interpretations; or by a book that he didn’t even write himself, contains many scientifically questionable and fantastic anecdotes, whose meaning even his own priests, prophets and theologians don’t agree on, and whose authorship is anonymous in many instances?
Imagine if you had daughter who has a suitor whom she only knows through a certain facebook account. Your daughter tells you, “Daddy (or mommy), this guy says he wants to have a relationship with me.”
“Well, have you seen him in person?”
“No. We only know each other through facebook.”
“Oh, does he have a picture?”
“Well, it’s not really his account. He just communicates with me through this other person who has an account.”
“And do you know this other person?”
“Have you asked to meet him?”
“Yes, but he says he can’t show himself yet and that I simply have to trust him.”
At this point, I’d say, “Dearest daughter, I highly doubt this person exists, or if he is really sincere in having a relationship with you. Chances are, you’re being scammed.”
Marduk’s reply to this is twofold: One, he says it is quite presumptuous of me to dictate to God the terms of our relationship (he is God after all), and two, if God were to grant my request for a personal appearance or experience, then the very force of his identity and personality would make me naturally want to have a relationship with him, thus taking away “free will.”
He then trots out Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of facebook) as an example. If Zuckerberg would suddenly show up at my doorstep and then say he’d like to hang out with me, then I would naturally WANT to hang out with him because of his celebrity status. In other words, of course, I would want to have a relationship with Zuckerberg but maybe for all the wrong reasons.
To answer the first objection, I don’t think it’s presumptuous at all because after all, you guys tell me that he’s the one who wants to have a relationship with me. And I am simply expecting of this relationship what I would expect of any other relationship. One, I need to know who exactly I’m in a relationship with — not only have an idea of this person from indirect sources, and two, I expect open, honest and clear communication between the two of us.
On the second objection, what Marduk is in effect saying is that if God were to grant my request, then that would take away “free will” because I would essentially have “no choice” but to believe. Now that may seem a reasonable argument at first, but we only have to turn the pages of the very same Bible Marduk cherishes, to see that this is also fallacious.
If the stories are to be believed, the Old Testament Israelites witnessed firsthand their God and yet they routinely sinned and disobeyed. Jonah heard God’s voice yet he ran away. Lucifer was an angel in heaven and yet he rebelled. Judas was in Jesus’ inner circle yet he betrayed him.
The point is, these people all presumably had a direct experience of God, yet were STILL ABLE TO MAKE THE CHOICE of whether to follow or not. Their freedom to enter or not to enter into a relationship with God was NOT compromised by their knowledge of him. They were still free to accept or reject God.
That is simply what I ask, to know and have some contact with this person or being who supposedly wants to have a loving relationship with me.
Is that too much to ask?
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.