Those who are what some might refer to as ‘nominal’ Christians have a serious problem: they say they believe in God, but perhaps have never experienced the Divine in a real way. It’s hearsay.
Organised religion can be beneficial for society, but encouraging its adherents to engage with their creator in a meaningful way is not one of its strengths.
Most of us agree that while you can’t prove there is a God, neither can you prove that there isn’t. But there’s a philosophical argument that poses an interesting question: is the absence of proof, proof of absence?
In other words, if you can’t prove that something exists, does that mean it doesn’t? Philosopher Karl Popper put it more simply: if you see a million white swans every day of your life, that does not necessarily prove that there are no black swans, and in any case, you only need to see one black swan to disprove the theory.
In the same way, the nominal Christian might go through life never seeing a shred of evidence in support of the existence of God – even though there might be evidence all around.
And then you find one who has a single experience of God that removes all possible doubt from his mind forever.
I met the German evangelist Reinhart Bonnke once or twice and he told me a remarkable story which, when I researched it, I discovered it had been reported widely in the media in Nigeria by a number of eyewitness reporters. Long story short: Daniel Ekechukwu, pastor of a small church near to where Bonnke was conducting a series of meetings, was involved in a car crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene and his body conveyed to the local hospital, where his blood was replaced by formaldehyde as a preservative.
However, the pastor’s wife insisted on bringing the body to the church where Bonnke was preaching. Unable to get into the building because of the crush of people, she brought it into a little back room in the hope that the preacher might pray for him later.
The body was laid in a coffin with the lid removed and it was guarded by two counsellors, but before long the dead man’s fingers began to twitch and then he opened his eyes, and soon he was on his feet.
Several weeks later he was interviewed on TV in the presence of the same reporters who had witnessed the event in that little back room.
I am aware that I am repeating the story second-hand, albeit from a fairly reliable source, but the point I am making is that this event was for many, their ‘black swan’ moment.
In summary, it seems to me that we live in a time of complacency, particularly as regards spiritual matters, and I sometimes think that this is what old Elijah was struggling with when he gathered together all his people and challenged them, ‘How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him. But if Baal be God then follow him!’
In other words, ‘...will you quit your faffing about and make a decision, one way or the other!’
There really is nothing new under the sun, is there?