A Story You May have Heard… but not quite this way…

An Atheistic Professor of Philosophy was speaking to his students about the Problem Science has with God. He asked if anyone believed in God and a couple of students, hesitantly, raised their hands. Pointing to one, the professor asked, “Are you a Christian? The kid said, “Yes,” and so the professor asked, ”Is God good? All powerful?”

“Sure,” the student replied

The Professor went on, “My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is this God good then? Hmm?” The student didn’t respond.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” said the professor, “But you do believe God created everything, right?”

“Ahh… right.”

“So, tell me where does evil come from? If God created everything, and evil, let’s even say ‘Satan’ was created by God. Again, the student was left silent, but the professor continued. “Sickness…immorality… hatred… despair… all this terrible stuff exists and since it is here and God created everything… then God is responsible… OR there may be another possibility.” The room was hushed. “Has anyone here ever seen God? Heard God? Felt, tasted, smelled… God? According to empirical, testable, truly demonstrable protocols God doesn’t exist. Do you have anything you can lift up as proof?” The student shifted, but then said, “I only have my faith and my personal experience, sir.”

The professor said, “And that’s not enough to make it a reliable part of life. So, let’s look at how we think about the world and how we may think in a manner that makes sense.” There was a general uncomfortable movement throughout the room and the professor went into his lecture.

At the end of the class the student who had been the focus of the professor’s earlier questioning came up and asked if he might buy the professor a cup of coffee. As he didn’t have another class that afternoon the professor agreed. As they walked across the campus they both remarked on what a beautiful early fall day it was and then the professor said, “I hope I wasn’t too hard on you.”

“Well, it was embarrassing,” said the student, “But you’re making me think. I thought maybe if I got to know you a little better, I could understand how you are experiencing life. Would you mind telling me a bit about your brother? That sounds like it was an awful experience for you and your family.”

Something about the open faced, relaxed question caught the professor off guard and almost without thinking he began to explain how he looked up and loved his older brother. He explained how he had always had questions about faith and how the experience of this personal tragedy had hollowed him out.

“I’m really very sorry for that,” the student replied. They found a seat in the coffee shop and continued to talk about family, heartbreak, lack of answers to big questions. This experience left the professor with such an enjoyment of the young man that he agreed to do it again and again after that.

Finally one day the student asked if he could share his own questions and the professor agreed. There, in the privacy of the coffee shop table where they usually met, the student said, “I’ve been thinking over what you asked me that first day and it lead me to some other questions… and maybe answers. Do you think there is such a thing as cold?”

“Sure,” said the professor.

“Really?” said the student, “Because I won’t think so anymore.”

“You don’t think there is such a thing as ‘cold’?

“No… we can have lots of heat or no heat but we can’t have cold. We don’t measure cold. We measure heat. It’s like light.”

“Light?” the professor asked.

“Well, we don’t measure dark. There is no such a thing as dark. There’s only less light or even no light. Which lead me to rethink the issue of God in how you presented your questions to me in class that day.” The professor blushed as he remembered and felt badly of how he put this bright and friendly man on the spot as he had. “You spoke of God as measurable, as if life and death were both real tangible things. Death is the lack of life, but it isn’t a thing on its own. It appears to me, and please help me here to understand, that you had a demeaning experience that caused you to turn away from God the way I might turn away from someone who humiliated me in front of others. You didn’t have any answer in the experience you had in your brother’s death, so you turned away from the one your brother went to for help.”

The professor was silent. But the student continued, “I really appreciate how you think, sir, but I think maybe your loss and pain has moved you into trying to quantify something that is so much more, so much larger and even real than measurable. What I find in faith is not a bunch of answers or logical reasoning. What I find is someone that I trust to be with me, even when I am too small to understand why something’s happening as it is. Do you know how Galileo died, professor?”

The shift of thought caught the professor by his curiosity. “Ahh… Galileo? No.”

“It appears he may have damaged his lungs when he and some friends were on a sort of camping trip as youngsters. They stayed in a cave and it seems there were gases there that hurt him. I don’t know why your brother got cancer, but I do know there are things that happen for a reason. I’ve found that the Bible tells me God doesn’t like the things that hurt us anymore than we do. I don’t think God hated Galileo, do you? I guess I also kind of think God was there with your brother in his trauma.”

The professor sat silently for a bit and then just said, “Thanks. I’ll need to think about this.”

The next day, in class, the professor began by apologizing to the student in front of everyone for embarrassing him that first day, and then he said, “My friends, I think… I think that what I want you to do in this class… and in your lives… is to follow the Truth wherever it might lead you. I think we might be safe, if we give that a shot. So… let’s get to doing that together, eh.” And he went on with his lecture. The student quietly prayed in his heart that the Truth would find His way into the professor’s heart as well.


One response to “A Story You May have Heard… but not quite this way…

  1. garry mueller

    Really liked this story.Any basis in an experience you had or heard from someone. I really liked how he said we measure heat and lack thereof rather than cold,same as light. That is very thought provoking Geoff.I do miss your teaching on Sundays,God bless.

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