I have a poor sense of direction and get very confused when people tell me how to get somewhere. They often end by saying, ‘you can’t miss it’. This however is not true as I have stood on the steps of St Paul’s and asked directions to St Paul’s. This is possibly not quite as daft as it sounds. Sometimes really big things are hard to see when you are close to them.
People of faith are often criticised for not being able to prove that God exists. It is assumed by some that our faith is blind and irrational. The trouble is that God is such a big concept that proof either way, belief that there is a God, or belief that there isn’t a God, are both un-provable. You can’t argue from within creation that there is a creator and you certainly can’t decide there isn’t a creator when immersed in the middle of it. It’s like missing St Paul’s while standing on the steps of St Paul’s. It’s like a fish that doesn’t notice that water is wet.
What this means is that both those who believe in God and those who don’t, have to make a choice without the possibility of proof. You have to choose to believe there is a God or that there isn’t. At this point both choices are equally open to the challenge, ‘show us your proof’. The difference between the two positions only follows on from this first choice. Because I believe in God, everything speaks of God’s creation. If I don’t believe that there is a God, nothing speaks to me. To believe in God is like tuning a radio, when you find the channel, suddenly all the random static focuses into meaning and clarity. St Augustine said, ‘all creation cries out that it is made’ and this is the truth for those who believe. For a Christian this makes wonderful sense, but to an atheist it is just another claim that can’t be proved.
Once we have made that first choice, tuned into God, then we are invited to live life fully and try not behave as ‘functional atheists’. A functional atheist is someone who lives, breathes and acts as if there were no God. We all sometimes fall into this inconsistency and a symptom of it is to seek God only in the gaps we think our modern scientific world has left. We are impressed by stories of ‘supernatural’ events, of healings, or spiritual gifts, or strange coincidences. We keep trying to persuade ourselves that God is real because of something we felt we could explain in no other way. This is however both exhausting and unnecessary! It is also frustrating for those seeking God because God is not found only in the rare and peculiar events of life. This emphasis on the unnecessary supernatural is a real barrier for many people.
If God exists, then God is Creator of all things. All the things we understand, and all that we don’t. We differ from an atheist who seeks to explain things away by saying, ‘they are only coincidence’, ‘it’s only evolution’, or even ‘it was just random chance’ by saying, ‘all is of God and gives God glory’. They try and reduce the wonderful to little things, as we are invited to find in the little things echoes of the Creator. A miracle isn’t essentially something that we don’t understand, but rather something, anything, that shows us more of God’s glory and love.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote,
‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.’
We live in the age of miracles, of signs and wonders, of God’s majesty and glory that surrounds us; love like the sea in which the fish swims.