This programme looked at belief in God in a very personal way. John Humphrys described how he had been brought up in the Christian faith, but had lost it in the wake of all the cruelty and suffering he had seen. In three programmes he talks to three leaders about why they think he could believe in God. He sits there and seeks to be convinced. The first was with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I was quite disappointed with Abp Rowan's response. He could so easily have addressed some of the axioms of John Humphrys' argument, but he kept it at quite a theoretical level. There was a very good section when he ended up questioning JH on what his issues were, but somehow he didn't build on it.
What was most surprising was that he didn't keep the focus of his response on Jesus Christ. It seemed to me that one thrust of JH's points were that he didn't believe in God, because if He exists and He's 'out there', why doesn't He come down here? Given that He doesn't, He can't exist. That seemed to me to be his case.
Central to addressing such an argument must surely be to refer to the incarnation. God isn't sitting 'out there'; He's here (and there). God has entered the physical realm in Jesus Christ, and has lived, suffered and even died. At the very least, God has tasted the human condition, and at the crucufixion, Christians believe that in Jesus Christ, God actually articulates the cry of all suffering humanity: " my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Suffering still has no causal explanation, but the presence of suffering no longer necessarily indicated the absence of God.
Moreover, God's presence continues to be expressed in human beings. That's not to dismiss all 'supernatural' interventions by God, but experiences of God are often much more in the normal, everyday, material, and sometimes negative and distressing events of life. That is the Christian story.
My wife, Debbie, also observed that the Abp. made little reference to story. What case could a Christian put to a journalist to commend Christianity? The Christian story makes more sense of what the world is like and what it means than any other story. A journalist ought to find that sort of case engaging, even if it's not ultimately convincing.
Looking forward to seeing if the Jewish or Muslim contributors put a better case.