Letters to An Agnostic # 1—God is a Person

Letters to An Agnostic # 1—God is a Person

To know if God exists, you have to begin dealing with him as a person. As in, “God, if you do exist, I would like to know you”, or “Deep down, God, I sense you exist, but I admit I do not want that to be true.” If there is no one on the other end of the line, the person saying these words has lost nothing more than a few seconds of his time on a thought experiment. But if there is, then the man saying these things has begun to treat his Creator as a subject, and can expect a response, as happens when you seek to know a person.

Thanks for being willing to begin this literary correspondence about such important matters as the afterlife, the existence of God, and the very meaning of existence. It’s more profitable for us to discuss these matters in this format than in some online comments section debate. Online debates almost always raise the ire of the debaters, because they know their comments and replies are being watched and read by others, increasing the temptations to pride and reactionary anger exponentially. Furthermore, the limited space, and pressure to reply quickly militates against careful thought, reasoned exchanges, or emotionally-chastened responses. I look forward to reading your letters.

You asked me to present my best “case” for Christianity, and I plan to do something like that. But to begin with, I am actually going to gently quibble with your choice of words. The use of the term “best case” suggests that Christianity can be boiled down to an argument: a set of propositions, like a mathematical proof, or a logical theorem. Supposedly, if these propositions are perfectly logical, empirically verifiable, internally coherent, and demonstrably experienced, then the argument, or the case, for Christianity must be accepted.

But I challenge that very assumption. Christians assert that God is a person. In fact, we think he is the fullest expression of personhood, infinitely personal, so to speak. If that is the case, then God’s existence is only a fraction of the really important question. If God is a person, then the important question is, how does someone come to know him? Because it is only in engaging and knowing him as a person that he could actually be known, thereby settling forever the question of his existence. We know of the existence of persons by knowing them, not gathering evidence for their existence. Here we must not get the cart before the horse: knowing persons is never a matter of first settling their existence, followed by personal engagement with them

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