God gave a clue to his reality during our bus trip to the ‘In defence of God’ session of the Sydney Writer’s festival today (May 23).
Running late due to bus delays, we were worried about missing the session until our bus driver got lost in the Rocks and pulled over randomly to let us out – right in front of our destination, Sydney Theatre, instead of the actual bus stop two streets away! God is providential, generous and has a sense of humour…
As we gathered with the unfaithful – the session was chaired by an atheist and featured a lapsed Episcopalian – we found we had more in common with the other speaker, the Iranian-American author and scholar, Reza Aslan.
While Eric Lax, author of Faith Interrupted, lamented his fall from faith (I believe he’ll be back though), Aslan launched an attack against the new atheists. He described their behaviour as being as fundamentalist as some of the religious people they hate. He also reminded the audience that despite a century of violent secularism, the number of religious adherents had risen from half to two thirds of the global population.
Aslan was challenged by a few questioners but was able to mount a good defence for God before the brief question section was wound up. He even began his talk by referring to the blogs that had questioned why an atheist, lapsed Episcopalian and Muslim were leading this session, with no Christian authors present. I take it from this, that he has read Utterance!
In the long run, however, there was inability of all panelists to consider a God who is a personal, tangible reality in our lives with the chair Louise Adler asking for a more concrete definition of faith and God. It wasn’t forthcoming and this was because no one had been invited to speak who actually believes in God this way. It was a timely reminder that atheists and agnostics are searching for something to lovingly but powerfully challenge their unbelief.
A good place to start might be to invite New York minister and author Timothy Keller to next year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival. In the meantime, read his book, The Reason For God – Belief in the age of Scepticism. PH
Listen to a short section of Reza Aslan’s defence of God: