It's a very vulnerable cleric who agrees to try and convert a sceptic on the radio so well done Archbishop Rowan for yesterday's 9.00 a.m. Radio 4 programme (listen again here) and I look forward to hearing Professor Tariq Ramadan, Muslim academic and author and Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi over the next two weeks.
How do you respond to someone who openly says, 'Why can't I have your faith?' Archbishop Rowan chose the gentle approach, probing back at Humphrys to find out what exactly it was he thought he wanted. 'I want to believe in your vague God,' was the reply.
Is belief proof? I think, as J. John says, it's a matter of '...doing before you get it what you would do if you had it' (I used that at the weekend without attribution for which I apologise). In Acts Luke talks of Jesus giving many convincing proofs to the disciples which leads leads me to ponder what an unconvincing proof might look like. At the end of Matthew the risen Jesus appears to his disciples and some doubted. If there is proof there is no faith so I guess when our Bibles have the word 'proof' we are probably seeing a mistranslation of 'evidence'.
Is faith a gift? Yes. So if somebody hasn't got it then do they need to ask harder? Maybe, but at minimum wanting and not having does test how much you really want something. I have met so many people who don't believe in God because they don't seem to want to, however much they say they do.
Is faith clever? Humphrys put it to the Archbishop that, 'You don't go down the proof-text route but you use your very clever mind to find an answer.'
I enjoyed the conversation on the radio and, with Brian McLaren, ended up rejoicing in the existence of the conversation rather than the result of it.
But at the end of the day if someone says to me 'I want your faith' my response has always been to pray with them rather than try to explain it to them. We can talk about what it means later. A bit futher on in Acts a sudden outpouring of faith to a large group of people meant that people thought they were observing drunkenness. Faith first; implications second.