Archive for January, 2011

Here be Pirates

January 13, 2011

In light of the reports on increased piracy in recent years off the north eastern coast of Africa (and particularly the Somali coast), I’ve often wondered why cargo ships don’t simply arm themselves and demonstrate to the pirates (non-lethally, hopefully) that they should desist their attempts to board the ship.  There are a variety of non-lethal technologies that are being developed and deployed, such as this recent article on  green lasers which can be used to temporarily blind or disorient pirates in an approaching vessel so that they are unable to successfully board or attack the cargo ship.  Other measures include the use of foam and water canons, electrification of areas of the ship most likely to be boarded, and the use of razor wire to form a formidable barrier that slows down the pirates or prevents them from boarding at all.  

And it’s not as though arming crews is unknown.  In fact there is growing interest in this practice, even though it generally flies in the face of maritime traditions.  There are official documents and recommendations for how to prepare for and respond to a pirate attack, but they emphasize defensive measures and attempting to avoid such a situation in the first place.  
From what my extensive 15 minutes of research dug up, it would seem that the decision not to arm crew members and train them to meet violence with violence is primarily an issue of a risk-benefit equation.  Arming crew or hiring armed security guards escalates the situation.  Most pirates are not interested in harming the crew, but rather holding them for ransom (along with the ship and it’s cargo).  If not met by lethal force, the pirates attempt to take control of the ship and the crew and then issue a ransom demand.  Generally, these demands are a few million dollars.  Companies that insure cargo ships see this as a small cost.
You may return to your daily routine.
Compared with what?  Compared with the cost of replacing an entire ship.  Pirates are upping their arsenals to now include rocket propelled grenades.  It’s no longer just small arms fire that crews and vessels face.  While these weapons are used basically to intimidate the crew into surrendering the vessel, there is the fear that, if resisted, these weapons could be used to sink the vessel, resulting in loss of crew (potentially) as well as loss of cargo and the ship itself.  Much, much more expensive to insure.  There’s also the risk of crew members being injured or killed in a firefight with pirates.  This could result in expensive law suits even if the pirates themselves are successfully repelled.
There doesn’t appear to be any obvious laws against vessels arming themselves, at least at the international level.  Individual nations might have restrictions about allowing armed vessels into their ports, which would no doubt contribute to the decision as well.  Additionally there’s the issue of what longs days and weeks at sea does to the mental stability of the crew itself, and the fear that the crew might – in the heat of a dispute – actually turn the weapons on one another.  
Anyways.  I thought this was interesting, and there’s a ton more information out there.  But mostly it’s a matter of crew that are not interested in being – let alone able to be – soldiers, and the ultimate issue of what’s more expensive – a possible ransom or dealing with lawsuits from injured or killed sailors or their families, as well as the potential cost of losing cargo and the ship carrying it.

Other Duties As Assigned

January 12, 2011

This morning before chapel, I discovered that two birds had flown into the lobby area of our church (the narthex, to be proper).  Of course, this is a partially two story area, and the birds were panicked.  Fortunately the kids hadn’t arrived yet from the adjoining school, so I had to figure a way to get the birds out.  

I found a large blue, heavy duty trash can liner bag.  I started shooing the first bird – who was flapping all over the place – away from the stairs leading upstairs and towards the open door.  I thought I had success – the bird suddenly took off with speed directly towards the doors.  But unfortunately instead ran right into the glass window next to the doors.  He was stunned, so I was able to pick him up with the bag and carry him outside onto the lawn.  The second bird did exactly the same thing – even though I had opened up both double doors to make a more obvious exit target.  But he was well enough to fly out the doors on his own instead of needing my escort.
When I checked later, the bird I had taken outside was nowhere to be seen, so hopefully he’s ok.
I’m sure there’s a theological analogy in there somewhere, but I’m not going to pursue it right now.  And neither should you.  


January 12, 2011

Every Wednesday morning the K-6 grades of the Christian school that leases property from our congregation troops across the parking lot for chapel.  They brave the frigid 60 degree mornings, the occasional spattering of rain, and the unpredictability of sunlight and shadow from fast moving clouds to be led in music and learning.  I have the privilege of providing the message about once a month, while the other weeks are filled by other clergy in the area or the school’s teachers and administrators.  

The older kids arrive first in the form of the choir.  They’re led through a series of practice songs to warm them up for leading the songs when the other students arrive.  Most weeks one of the students is the worship leader, meaning that they sing a solo in one of the songs.  Given the many yawns and eye-rubbings and general shell-shocked demeanor of these kids at 8am, it’s probably a mixed blessing at best.
This morning I sit in the back pew, as I usually do when I attend – which I try to every week regardless of whether I’m the designated hitter or not.  I watch the choir warm up.  The songs are familiar by now – they sing the same 4-5 songs every week.  The girl who is going to be the worship leader for the morning seems typically nervous.  She has a sweet voice, and there’s that tremor of uncertainty that causes the notes to warble briefly before she decides she’s singing the right verse and adds a little more oomph to her voice.  
The other students file in quietly and the singing begins.  As the pianist begins to play, there’s some sort of attempted communication from the worship leader, but I can’t tell what it is.  Some consternation or uncertainty.  The piano keeps playing, and the girl has little choice but to begin singing.  
But it’s clear that something isn’t quite right.  As the song goes on, there’s a growing glinting in her eyes that appear to be tears welling up, though I can’t tell why.  Her singing is fine, and she’s keeping a brave face.  But as the song goes on, the tears begin to wash trails down her cheeks.  By the end of the song, she’s kept her overall composure, but the tears are really falling.  She rubs her eyes with the palms of her hands to try and clear them.  But her face is flushed and the tears show no sign of stopping.  The pianist transitions into the next song and the children begin singing.  
I hear the doors open behind me and a woman walks briskly in and sits a few rows up from me behind one of the teachers, leaning over to whisper something back and forth.  The new arrival gasps and looks up.  The girl’s eyes are glued to the woman, a look of pleading on her face, the tears pouring out again.  The woman who just arrived stands up quickly.  Already in tears herself she leaves as quickly as she arrived.  I see the principal get up from across the sanctuary and head after her.  On stage, the girl continues to cry and try to sing the songs with the rest of the children.  There are furtive glances at her from the kids closest to her.  Why is it that tears are such a source of curiosity for us?
A moment passes, and the woman returns and sits back down.  The principal goes to speak to the pianist as the children conclude their last song.  She begins playing the first song again, and the girl, eyes still wet but tears stopped, boldly sings out the first notes of her solo.  The children sing around her as she focuses intently on the pianist for the cues that lead her through the song.  Towards the end, she ventures a look toward her mother.  Everything is ok.  
It’s a powerful reminder to me of how things that seem so little and simple can be so important and meaningful to the children in our lives.  A promise postponed or missed can be devastating.  A promise kept can be so joyful.  

When You Do That Thing…

January 11, 2011

This is a great and short piece on the key underlying difference between certain churches and denominations in terms of worship.  

I think that there isn’t much clarity on what we mean when we try to differentiate worship styles.  I spent my youth in a very traditional LCMS church where we did the liturgy out of the front of the hymal every week.  I found it to be beautiful, if I thought much about it at all.  It’s what we did, and I was just a kid, so there wasn’t a lot of deep thinking about it.  In college I became part of an LCMS campus ministry that never used the hymnal, let alone the liturgy out of a hymnal.  Each week was a custom-designed liturgy, much of the time.  The basic flow and content was the traditional liturgy, but the wording was all different each week.  We would also utilize special liturgies from time to time.  One newer attender talked about one of the liturgies we used as being “Jesus the Musical”.  It was an apt description since we sang pretty much the entire content of the service – not just the actual songs.
Various congregations talk about whether their worship is traditional or contemporary.  Most of the time, what I think this really means is what sort of songs do we sing.  I’ve not met a Lutheran congregation that insists that it wants to jettison the liturgical elements or flow of the traditional worship format.  Most folks talk in terms of whether or not they like the classic hymns or prefer newer (and more singable) music, or a mixture of the two.  
I like the aforementioned link because it describes the heart of the difference between how ‘big box’ churches do things and how more traditional groups (Lutherans, Catholics, etc.) do things.  And that difference is not what sort of music is played or whether the spoken bits are in the King’s English or modern English, but what is actually happening in worship.  
More specifically than what the linked essay speaks to, the core difference is a matter of whether the focus is on us as the gathered, or God as the gatherer.  Are we there to give praise to God for what He has already done or we hope that He will do in our lives, or are we there to actually receive the gifts of God right there in worship?  Is worship a monologue where we talk about how great God is and devote ourselves to showing him how earnest we are to become better Christians, or is it a dialogue where we speak only in response to God speaking, and the emphasis is on God’s great goodness and grace despite our inability to be the better Christians we know we ought to be?  
Understanding what it is that is happening is the first step to better understanding what our role is in expressing preferences.  It takes the discussion beyond just the issue of do I prefer this style of music or the pastor’s mode of dress.  And in doing so, it makes the issue less about us as individuals and more as the collected and gathered people of God.   At that point, it hopefully draws us together in discussion rather than pushing us apart in a constant search for the church and worship that is just like us.  

Where No Nerd Has Gone Before…

January 10, 2011

I thought this was an interesting essay on the distinctively Christian perspective of the original Star Trek series. 

I used to love watching the reruns of the original series, but only watched some of the later spin-offs sporadically (even though their production quality was a lot better than the original series).   

It’s About Time

January 8, 2011

I’m not sure if stories like this are more frequent and are not picked up in our news media here, or if they are not very common.  As I’m looking through stuff, it seems that most of the reports are out of Arabic news sources.  That’s interesting.  Are they the only ones reporting on this?  

Copts are Egyptian Christians.  They were the targets of bombings on New Year’s Eve that killed almost two dozen people.  The article above talks about how their Muslim neighbors vowed to guard their Christian neighbors during Christmas Eve worship (the Copts follow the Alexandrian calendar, not the Gregorian one used by us Westerners) by setting themselves up as human shields outside their places of worship.
It’s good.  And there hasn’t been any further news coverage on it, so I’ll assume that it’s all gone well.  If Muslims claim to follow a religion of peace, then tangible steps to prevent radical minorities from hijacking their religion is going to be necessary.  

Thinking Carefully

January 6, 2011

Thanks to another Facebook colleague for this link to a blog entry by Donald Miller.  Miller came to national attention a few years ago with his book Blue Like Jazz .  I wasn’t particularly impressed by the book, but it seems to have left an impression on a lot of people.  The link above is to a very short blog entry – and as he states, it’s part of his thinking process for future book projects.  

I know that I’m long winded, but the brevity of his post leaves a lot of gaping questions and possible misinterpretations.  I’m sure that might be part of his purpose in writing it this way.  But, given the strangeness of contemporary American Christianity on a lot of topics in and out of the church, I figure I’ll respond anyways.  I’m sure both Miller and I will sleep easier that way!
First off, I think his specification of the ‘evangelical church’ not being in existence when Song of Solomon was written is curious.  Why distinguish between the ‘evangelical church’ and just ‘the church’, or ‘Christianity’?  I think Miller is probably making a comment on this particular strand of Christian thought & practice, but it’s an incredibly narrow one, and I’m pretty positive the overall thrust of his musings wouldn’t be blunted at all if he referred to the larger Christian church.  
Secondly, I’m not sure what he basis his assertion that Song of Solomon was written for “young kids” has.  The fact that adulthood arrived a lot earlier in Biblical times than it did today doesn’t mean that a 14-year old 2500 years ago should be considered a ‘kid’ just because we consider 14-year olds today to be kids.  Definitions are important things, and we need to be careful how we use the words we use.  Chronological age is not tied completely and totally to maturity level and responsibility levels.  And I’m choosing 14 years totally at random here, assuming that his idea is that people married very young in those days and therefore they were kids.  My point is no, they weren’t.  They were 14 years old, and in that time and place, that might very easily have been considered ‘adult’, even if we can’t conceive of doing that today (a conception that I think is flawed in some fundamental ways).
I doubt that the culture of Solomon’s day (or the day of the author, as many conservative scholars remain unconvinced that it is actually Solomon who wrote it), was any more libertine than ours.  In other words, I doubt that this writing – if it had been intended for widespread pop consumption as entertainment and diversion (which his analogy of this being an ‘opera’ seems to infer) – would have been universally accepted.  If this writing had been written for entertainment purposes in those days, I’m sure the author would have been vilified every bit as much as Miller implies evangelical Christians would vilify such a writing today (and routinely do).  One of the roles of a person of faith is to attempt to understand the theological and practical impact of something, whether that thing purports to intend theological or practical impact or not.  I’m pretty sure that the Israelites of 2500 years ago or more understood this, and obviously have felt for a very long time that this is not simply random erotic fiction, but does serve some deeper purpose, even if we aren’t entirely in agreement about what that might be.
Miller basically seems to be asserting that the church today may not be in step with God.  Fair enough – given that the church is made up of sinful, broken people and God is not, I’m happy to agree with that.  But what his article leaves you with is the idea that the church has imposed a bunch of arbitrary limitations on our behavior and thinking, and that these are not necessarily the sorts of limitations God wants for us.  While this is very possible, we need to be careful about how we assert it, because of course, since we have Scripture, we have some recourse in determining whether or not the church is off base or not.
Yes, we are creative creatures and intended to create in imperfect and limited ways.  It is this acknowledgment that we are broken and imperfect and limited that ought to govern and filter our creative processes.  Submitting ourselves to the wisdom of our Perfect Creator to the best of our ability guides and informs and improves our own limited creative endeavors.  Writing erotic fiction for uneducated mass-consumption is probably not what Miller has in mind, but it’s easily a conclusion one might reach by reading what he has written here.  I give him the benefit of the doubt that these ideas will be refined and honed and better expressed somewhere down the line.  But for now, they’re rough and unrefined and actually misleading, and that’s hard, knowing that there are people reading them who respect Miller and take what he says very seriously and even literally, and who may not stop to think that perhaps he has not said all that needs to be said or will be said on this topic.  
This is the heavy responsibility of writing, and particularly of blogging, since it is by it’s very nature so prone to rough expression.  That’s why, just as I urge my parishioners, I urge my readers to dialog and respond and interact.  I could easily be wrong about something.  Or mistaken.  Or misled.  My vocation is not a guarantee of accuracy, only an indication that I should at some level be able and willing to sort through and find or admit the errors I commit unintentionally while seeking to avoid intentional ones.  
So speak up and tell me when I’m wrong!


January 5, 2011

My last several posts have sprung from a conversation I had with a friend who is not a Christian, but likes the idea of that sort of a God out there.  To an extent.

And I’ve focused on the sorts of rational/logical questions I’ve been trying to ask to prompt her in clarifying her position on what god she may or may not believe in.  It all sounds very clinical.  And at this stage of things, and given her background, it is.  Much of what she occasionally rails against theists for centers on a certain lack of reasonableness or logic to the faith.  Much of that is frankly based in an inaccurate understanding both of what Biblical Christians believe and why they believe it.  
But to get to a point where we’re discussing the reasonability of Biblical Christians, I’m trying to understand what conceptions she personally has about God, with the hopes that we’ll move to a place where she’s willing and able to hear about God from the Bible, , based on what she has been willing to agree to in these preliminary arguments (used here in the logical sense, not the confrontational sense) about God.  Once we have clearly articulated where she stands, then we can know if there’s a way forward in talking about the Bible.  Up until this point, attempts to go to the Bible have been uniformly unsuccessful.  But hopefully if I understand what she believes and why, and if she clarifies that for herself, we’ll know if there is a way forward in discussion.
But it’s not as if I’m going to argue her into believing Jesus Christ the Son of God is her Lord and Savior.  
That’s not a job I (or anyone for that matter) is capable of doing.  I’m praying that by trying to clear some of the undergrowth from around the issue, we’ll be able to get to a place where she can hear the Gospel without simply laughing or getting angry and running away.  But clearing the undergrowth is not the same as the Gospel.  
We like the idea that if we could just present the Gospel in the right words, the other person would have little recourse but to believe.  This is erroneous on lots of levels.  And it puts terrible, terrible pressure on the Christian, which can lead to crushing guilt if the person we’re trying to talk to rejects what we’re saying.  What if we failed that person?  What if that person risks eternal separation from God because we weren’t eloquent or convincing enough?  Man, that’s a hard thought to fall asleep on at night.  
Biblically, it’s clear that this is never what Jesus or anyone else had in mind (1Corinthians 1:18, for example).  It’s not simply a matter of non-believers being stupid or evil, as some once (and still) assume.  Satan works hard to blind people to God’s truth.  He uses many mechanisms to do so, some of which are fiendishly effective.  The war here is not between my words and someone else’s words, but between the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of Satan.  It’s not an even match to be sure, and if it were only that struggle at play, there wouldn’t be any non-Christians left in the world.  
But people are a part of the equation.  And people can resist or reject the Gospel for any number of reasons.  The goal of apologetics is to examine those reasons with an eye towards demonstrating them to be false or inadequate, so that the person acknowledges that they ought to at least listen to the Gospel message with an open mind.  They could still resist or refuse at that point.  But the Holy Spirit might surprise them as well.  
Are apologetics necessary?  Can God open someone’s heart to His truth without extensive groundwork by me or someone else?  Of course.  The Apostle Paul is a pretty stunning example of that, and he’s hardly the only one.  But barring direct divine intervention or action, some people seem to require groundwork to be laid.  Or perhaps it’s simply that laying groundwork helps me feel as though I’m making progress.  Perhaps it’s just a way of making me feel better about myself and my own faith, by assuring me I’m not a fool.
I’m a fool all right, but hopefully not on that particular matter.  Only Jesus saves, and the Holy Spirit is the key agent at work.  But as I’m led, I seek to be faithful in communicating the Gospel in any and every way that might be effective.  And if simply stating it outright (as I have with this friend) is not effective, I’m happy to backtrack and try another route.  She half-jokes that I want to save her soul.  I assure her that’s not in my job description, but that I hope to have some small part in the Holy Spirit’s work in her life, ultimately resulting in her acceptance of Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  And if that requires continued conversation, so be it.  I’ll keep at it for the rest of my life, if that’s necessary.
I just pray it won’t be.  


January 5, 2011

It’s possible that you may have been out driving recently and seen on the back of someone’s car this rather strange looking icon:

Meet the flying spaghetti monster.  The flying spaghetti monster (FSM) is shorthand for any number of expletives and other derisive statements aimed at the idea of a creator deity that could be behind the universe and life as we know it.  The basic idea is, if you posit that an undetectable god created everything, then the FSM is just as valid an identity for this creative deity as any other.  If you’re dumb enough to say that the Judeo-Christian God could have created the world, you’re essentially as stupid as if you’d said the FSM created the world.
The FSM has gained a bit of Internet fame and I’ve actually seen one or two vehicles with one of these little symbols (or a variation thereof) on the back where Christians place their fish symbols and where other atheists often put their little fish symbols that have legs (demonstrating evolution).  Ha ha ha, we might think.  What a silly argument.  How could anyone believe that the FSM is just as likely a source for the created order as the Judeo-Christian God?
Somebody who doesn’t accept that a god – if one exists – could or would actually reveal itself in a meaningful way to it’s creation.  
After my discussion with my friend the other day, this seems to be the harder sticking point in conversations about theology.  My friend was willing to concede that God might exist, and that this God might even exist in such a way that we can’t measure Him in a test tube.  But when it came down to saying anything meaningful about this God, anything that impinges on how we live our lives and why we make the decisions we do, then she was a lot more cautious.  For her, going to that next step meant that she had to retract her biting assertions and criticisms of religious people asserting that their theology is correct and others are not.  Because if God is capable of revealing Himself in a way that we are capable of apprehending, then clearly there is a path for further examination of comparative truth claims.  If the Hindu claims that there are many divinities and the Jewish person claims that there is only one, we have to compare their truth claims in some fashion to determine which one appears to be more truthful.  
That sounds judgmental and we’re conditioned more and more to reject anything that might sound judgmental (except for the insistence that we aren’t to judge, of course – that dictate must stand according to current powers of political correctness.  How convenient.).  But it’s not judgmental.  If someone asserts that the sky is blue and another person asserts that it is red, I can investigate to see which claim seems more accurate.  I can bring my own observations and experiences to bear, as well as the observations and experiences of others.  Someone who has been brought up to believe that the sky is indeed red may not be convinced that they are in error, but the hypothetical objective outsider has some means for trying to make sense of the options presented to them and then following the one that appears to be more reflective of what they see and hear and experience.  
The idea of a God somewhere out there probably doesn’t bother a lot of people.  But a God out there who has created everything – including you and I – and who may have some very specific ideas on what this creator-creation relationship looks like and how we ought to live our lives – that’s a frightening proposition.  As long as we’re talking theory without application, I think people are more comfortable in admitting there could be something out there they don’t know about.  The issue is application, and application requires revelation of some sort.
Every religion asserts some level of revelation, so this isn’t some quirk of Judeo-Christianity.  Whether it’s the impersonal Brahma of Buddhism or the one-of-many gods of Mormonism, there is some level of assertion that we can reach a better understanding of this entity and our own relationship to it.  This may come through meditation and enlightenment as Buddhism stresses, or through divine revelation in a sacred text, but it has to happen for there to be anything meaningful to say about this entity, including whether or not it exists at all.
If someone is not willing to allow that a divine entity can and would reveal itself intentionally to us, and insists that outside some sort of empirical scientific study that classifies a newly discovered something-or-other as ‘god’ there can be no basis for believing in a deity, then there’s not much room to talk further.  If they’re willing to grant the former, then there’s room to begin talking about the various revelations that different religions assert that either a divine entity has made or that individuals have achieved by any number of means.  It also rules out the idea that all religions are basically equivalent or equal, because as soon as you start examining them in any detail, it’s obvious that they aren’t equivocal or equal, but rather are completely contradictory to one another.  If one of them is true, the others necessarily can’t be.  
That’s going to be a big step in my discussion with my friend.  But it’s a critical one.  Those who claim that they can’t know anything about God often do so for convenience sake – they don’t want to go to the trouble of examining what all the different revelation options are to sort through them.  What they’re really saying, however, is that they don’t believe that a god can or would reveal himself in a meaningful way to humankind.  Or they’re demanding that he reveal himself (or herself) in a particular way to them personally.  
Agreeing on whether divine revelation can happen in a meaningful way seems like the bigger obstacle in a certain vein of discussion with certain types of non-theists.  That’s a revelation for me.  

Mah Brain It Is a-Dancin’

January 5, 2011

Must mean I have a ton of stuff to get done, because my brain was just tearing through blog fodder this morning as I got ready to come in to work.  Much of it stems from recent discussions with a friend of mine who is not what I would describe as a theist, but who is closer to that possibility than I had hitherto realized.  

Part of our discussion was centered on the potential existence of some form of divine being.  She made a couple of statements that I wanted to follow up on.  She first of all said that she wanted to believe in a divine entity out there.  Secondly, she stated that one of the things that really ticked her off about theists was that they were so insistent in their various ways that their God was the right God and her God was the wrong God.  My God is not necessarily the same as your God, she stated.  
Interesting places to start.  Once a person indicates that they believe that a divine entity is possible (not a scientific impossibility since we haven’t discovered measurable traces of such a being, which is the very narrow way that many non-theists want to approach the issue), we have room to begin talking.
The first issue I wanted to clarify was whether or not she was a polytheist.  If her God and my God are not the same, is she positing that there are a multitude of gods out there – potentially one god for every single person if not more – and that all these gods are actually gods without any form of hierarchy of potency?  No.  She was pretty quick to dismiss that idea.  A polytheistic universe didn’t make sense to her, and it doesn’t make sense to me.  Particularly because my idea of what defines God is that God is the creator of everything else.  If you created everything there is, you’re God.  If you didn’t, you’re not.  That’s a fairly consistent Biblical standard for godness.
I wanted to clarify further.  If she didn’t believe that there were a multitude of gods out there, how could she make the statement that her God is not the same as my God?  Because your idea of God is just a messed up version of my God, she replied half in jest.  No problem.  Now I know that we’re discussing a single God, and that she is arguing that there are better or worse (accurate and less accurate)  understandings of this one God.  That’s a huge series of steps forward in a discussion like this.  
The next question is, how does she know this?  How does she know that my understanding of God is just a messed up understanding of her God – who remains the only God out there?  We got stuck on this for a bit, and then I clarified further. Is God knowable?  We both agreed that a God could be knowable in part, but any God worth his title wouldn’t be knowable in totality by what he had created.  The finite cannot encompass intellectually the infinite.  That’s a pretty logical assertion.  Her example of this was that if there were a universe of two-dimensional creatures, and they encountered a sphere, they’d never know about the third dimension of that circle because they were only capable of experiencing two rather than three dimensions.
Awesome.  This is a pretty clear and clean argument against Gervais and others who insist that they will only believe in God if they can measure him somehow.  It is not illogical to say that God would be something that we can’t scientifically measure, unless your assumption is that we can and will know everything there is to know about everything – that we are not, in fact, finite in our understanding.  While Gervais doesn’t go there in his essay, he might as well, since that’s what he is effectively insisting.  If God exists, we would be able to track him down and verify it.  We’re that good.
So now in the discussion we have a situation where we are in agreement that there might be a God, and that it is reasonable to assume there would only be one God, and that this God is in some fashion knowable – enough to the extent that people can apparently have better or worse understandings or comprehensions of him.  In other words, God can be experienced, but he can be experienced either accurately or inaccurately.  Awesome.  This is an excellent way of discussing the relationship of all the world’s religions.  They aren’t all equivalent or pointing towards the same truth.  But they very likely represent differing (and more and less accurate) attempts to describe something they have experienced.
The question now becomes, if God can exist, if there’s only one of Him, and if He can be experienced – if His creation can experience Him in some fashion and recognize that they’ve just experienced something way out of their league, can God control that encounter.
Can God in fact, reveal Himself to His creation in a meaningful way – and more specifically, in such a way and at such a level that His creation can understand what it is that He is trying to reveal about Himself?  This is where our conversation ended, unfortunately.  But it’s a great place to pick up the discussion again in the future, I pray!
Ok…time for a meeting.  I’ll continue when I get back!