I only met him once, but the darkness that surrounded him was almost tangible, and I had to muster up all my courage to approach and talk with him.
"Welcome to the service; I'm glad you've come."
My words were genuine, but they did not come as easily as I wished they would.
"I'm only here for the bickies and coffee" he responded.
It seemed that word of the homemade chocolate chip cookies had spread through Lewes Prison, where, for a time, the authorities allowed me to bring them in.
"But don't you also come here for encouragement and to come closer to God?"
"There is no God. I've been there."
"What do you mean? I don't understand what you're talking about."
"There's nothing there. I OD'd and died, but I came back. There's nothing after you die. Nothing at all."
I was genuinely shocked. Most people who claim there is no God, no heaven or hell, do not claim first-hand knowledge. I did not know how to respond. But this encounter challenged me to think more about my own faith. Faith remains a mystery, but as I get older, and try to consistently apply my beliefs, I realize that some things are "pretty true." One truth I have recognized is that faith is not an intellectual thing. So why should I be interested in a book that takes a scientific approach to the whole question of faith and belief? I wasn't sure myself, but I started reading Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews. Despite not having much of a scientific background, I found myself fascinated and absorbed by Andrews' approach to this question.
Dr. Andrews is Emeritus professor at the University of London, and it is clear that he "knows his stuff." The book as a whole is an indirect rebuttal to the "new atheism" espoused by people such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. But it is not a book set against a book or people. Rather it is a highly readable and entertaining witness to the scientific evidence for faith, not simply an attack on atheism (though he does a commendable job of explaining the ideas of the God-deniers and how far-fetched and unscientific many of their theories are.)
For centuries scientists have been searching for a theory, an intellectual construct that can be used to explain everything in the cosmos. If Darwin's theory of evolution is not such an all-encompassing theory, it is certainly applied by many to explain all sorts of open questions. Latching on to his idea of "survival of the fittest" many writers now apply "survival value" to the most diverse of phenomena and come up with remarkable conclusions. Do you know why music has "evolved" in human society? It is because the ability to make these sounds makes for more attractive mates, thus more progeny, thus more survival. Both amazing and equally hard to believe!
If Dr. Andrews is (or was) as good an instructor in the classroom as he is in this book, he must be a remarkable teacher. He systematically plucks apart and shows the inadequacies of the major arguments of those who seek to explain the world through chance and/or evolution, and does it in a way entirely comprehensible to a layman such as myself.
As I worked my way through his book I kept wishing that I could be reading sections aloud to a number of people I know who claim to have no faith in God, some of whom are highly trained in science. I would like to know how these people would react. Dr. Andrews' arguments are so logical and compelling. Denial would be their only strategy if they wished to keep their superior view of the cosmos.
One of the greatest challenges for those who refuse to believe in God as Creator is to explain how life began in the first place. They have devised elaborate theories, and attempt to bolster these with the support of mathematical probability. Once again Dr. Andrews, in explaining the breathtaking complexity of life on the molecular level, shows how far-fetched the idea is that so many things could simultaneously occur in the perfect environment so as to create life, to say nothing of the "will to live."
Although this book's primary purpose is to show how scientific research points toward, rather than away from an omnipotent Creator, it does not deal with one of the biggest questions I have concerning this issue. Why is it that people, when confronted with the incredible complexity, the awe-inspiring majesty, the thrilling diversity and everything else that is so amazing about life, try to find any explanation for its existence other than God? Many of these people who (so I am told) are so brilliant they want to be called "Brights" to distinguish themselves from us ordinary mortals, absolutely refuse to give God his due.
Is it because it isn't intellectually challenging enough; if they acknowledged God, they might have to give him some of the glory, and their incredible brainpower might not look quite so stunning against a backdrop of faith? Or is it because if they acknowledged God as the creator, they would also have to recognize that he has some claims on us, his creations? In other words, they can't be bothered with a bad conscience, and the quickest and easiest way to dispose of this is to claim non-existence. Perhaps it is both.
But the battle for this Earth does not take place primarily in the realm of science or ideas, between believers and deniers. Neither does it take place in the actions (important as they are) of people. No, our actions and ideas flow from and are directly affected by the battle which is being waged in the spiritual world. Those of us who wish to be on God's side in this struggle should bear in mind that having all the correct ideas and beliefs does not help unless we have love in our hearts and put that love in to action. An atheist who shows mercy and compassion may do much more for God than many of us who attend church regularly but don't actually do anything for others. By all accounts Jesus was much more at home in the company of "sinners" than of good people.
So going back to the beginning of this piece, can Dr Andrews' book, with its beautiful expositions of the physical world and its deep insights into the nature of life, help the man I talked with in the Lewes Prison who said he'd been there already? It doesn't seem likely. He was too cynical, too jaded. But there is help nonetheless. It is doubtful that I will ever meet this man again. But if I do, I would tell him this from another profound author, German pastor Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), who was given spiritual insights far beyond the ordinary:
"People think that after they die everything will all of a sudden be all right. But if you do not have eternal life here, do you think it will be better over there...Who gives us that right? There are people who die and afterwards are just the same as before: they see and hear nothing but themselves. But if a person has eternal life here, laying aside the body no longer has any great significance; rather, a new living and striving full of heavenly joy begins for him" (from Now Is Eternity.)
What more to say? Read these books! If you're a believer, you will be uplifted and inspired. If you don't believe in God, you may need to get yourself a T-shirt that says on the front: "I'M AN ATHEIST!" and on the back: "But I'm beginning to have my doubts..."