Deist: I just believe in a god. He made everything. That seems reasonable. It’s hard to imagine all this coming from nothing.
Me: So what is this ‘god’ doing now?
Deist: Well, nothing. I think He’s just sitting back and watching.
Me: And why do you believe in this ‘god’?
Deist: Seems consistent with the Big Bang.
Me: Does this ‘god’ care about us? Like want a personal relationship with us?
Deist: I don’t think so.
Me: Is this ‘god’ doing anything?
Deist: No. But I think he does serve to give us human dignity, so that we’re not just random cells.
Me: But is this ‘god’ doing anything to undo human evil? Or is he just passive?
Deist: Just passive. This is a god who doesn’t intervene. So he doesn’t get my hopes up. I used to go to a church, you know. And we’d talk about miracles. I prayed for one. When it didn’t happen, over and over, I got tired of praying. What’s the use? It seemed like God was passive, and didn’t do anything. I think I’m in good company. A lot of the American founding fathers were deists. ‘Endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights,’ and stuff.
Me: If your parents said to you, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ do you think they would have moral integrity?
Deist: Well, no.
Me: So a god who is passive can’t be the source of a human morality that calls us to be active.
Deist: You’re telling me that the Christian ‘god’ is active? What’s this ‘god’ doing?
Me: The Christian God isn’t passive, and especially not about human evil.
Deist: You’ve got to be kidding me. What is that ‘god’ doing about it?
Me: At least two things. He speaks to us through our conscience, and that’s why we have some notion of goodness, love, justice, beauty, order, and so on. But he also is actively undoing the corruption in human nature. First in Jesus and then in anyone who says ‘yes’ to Jesus. God acquired a human body, acquired the same disease that we all have – sin. He fought against the disease throughout his entire human life, and then died and rose again so he could kill the corruption in himself and raise his humanity new and fresh. So he empowers his followers with love, courage, and strength.
Deist: And you think that makes a difference?
Me: Yes. I think everyone who follows Jesus would say that Jesus helps them be more loving than they ordinarily would. So the net total is quite big.
Deist: You think that makes your ‘god’ real? And really good?
Me: Yes. The Christian God is 100% good, and giving 100% of himself to undo the damage to human nature that we have inflicted on ourselves. Your deist ‘god’ is passive, is doing nothing about human evil in any way. But to do nothing in the face of human evil is to be… evil! Aren’t we agreed on that?
Deist: I suppose so.
Me: So, the passive deist ‘god’ that you speak of actually cannot anchor human dignity and value, because he does nothing to uphold it. Only the Christian God, who is 100% good, 100% loving, and actively doing stuff, who will do more stuff, can anchor human dignity and value.
Deist: So our concept of ‘god’ matters, is what you’re saying?