I remember the first day of my Intro to Philosophy class in college. I went to a private Southern Baptist university, so every single kid in class was your typical born-and-raised in youth group kid. You weren’t allowed to take Philosophy until your sophomore year, and all anyone would say about the class was that the professor was awe-inspiring. In that classical sense that he was both awesome and awful. He famously gave finals that were a single question. The most pervasive legend I heard was that one year the question was, “Why?”
One student wrote, “Why not?” and aced the exam, while another turned in, “Because,” and failed.
Imagine with me, then, that all those kids enter with fear and trembling to Day 1 of philosophy and we see scrawled on the board GOD DOES NOT EXIST.
Let’s be clear: this was a private Southern Baptist university. We were not allowed to think such things, let alone to say them out loud let alone write them on the board in class.
Then, out of myth and legend and into our classroom walks the professor. Dr. Cochrane was an ancient bald man who made these sweeping, cryptic pronouncements and refused to answer questions (so yeah, typical philosophy professor).
He looks out at us and, without introduction, announces,
“GOD! DOES NOT! EXIST!”
What followed was a rousing conversation about what, exactly, God is. Dr. Cochran pointed out fairly early on that God is a three letter word that is so vague as to be meaningless. Ten different people could be talking about ‘God’ and be talking about ten completely different ideas, entities, or persons.
Obviously, it’s a conversation that’s stayed with me for more than two decades, and shaped how I approach faith.
I want to ask with you today, “How do we know who God is? How do we know if the things we believe about God are true things? And what’s at stake in this conversation?”
What we’re going to see will probably be surprising to a lot of us. We don’t know God because of logical proofs or clever arguments.