Sunday, October 15, 2017

Theoretical God and theoretical neighbour

Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Wouldn’t you just love to win an argument outright? Argumentation and debating seem to have had a bit of a resurgence lately, particularly on the question as to whether God exists. In recent years, we have had loud atheists shout and argue and challenge the Church.

They seem to have gone quiet lately. Have they won the argument?

It would appear so. In a recent poll, more than half of people in the UK asked replied that they had no religion. We know that, in general, attendance in the CofE is dropping and it is only because of people coming in from Eastern Europe that the Roman Catholic Church hasn’t seen the same drop. It seems that this is likely to change.

Wouldn’t it be nice to give a knock-down argument which shows that we are right and that everyone else is wrong?

Why isn’t there such an argument?


It’s easy to answer some questions. We know that five is three more than two, that the angles in a triangle add up to two right angles and that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066.This is because we know what we’re talking about – numbers, triangles and things that have already happened. But now answer the question, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” The Pharisees say that the Christ is the son of David which now leads Our Lord to say, “If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”

Confused? So are the Pharisees! It’s true, the Christ is to be born of David’s line. It’s true that David, the great King of Israel calls this Christ, “Lord”. This Christ, descendant of King David, is greater than King David.

It can only happen if this Christ is both fully God and fully human. The trouble is that the Pharisees can’t understand this. To be honest, we can’t understand this! This is too difficult for the human mind to process.

And now we see why there isn’t a knock-down argument for the existence of God. If there were, then he would be too small a God. In fact the same is true for us. There isn’t an infallible argument for why other people are really human beings. The only way that we do know that our neighbour really is a human being and not a robot is by getting to know them. Human beings are not things that can be written down in text books: we are known by interacting with us, even loving us. And the same is true for God.

The idea of God may appear in many Religious Studies textbooks, but we don’t love an idea – we love God. If the Pharisees had been bothered to get to know Jesus, they would indeed know Who He is. Indeed, both St Nicodemus and St Paul are Pharisees that do get to know Jesus and thus know the truth about God – not by book knowledge, but by the knowledge that comes from Love.


Sometimes, we have a tendency to try and reduce people and things onto a piece of paper. Laws are just like that too. They are written on paper and yet they have to apply to real human beings in real situations. The laws that Jesus commands us are not just to be written down in the pages of the Bible, they are to be written in the heart of every human being. It is only within the heart that love can really happen. It is only by opening the heart to God and neighbour that the commandments can be obeyed.

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