This game can illustrate that knowing about someone is not the same as actually knowing that person. We will play a version of 20 Questions, using one character that everyone knows about, but not personally, and another character that only one person will really know.
You will need
- A pre-arranged volunteer
- Large sticky notes, cards and pens
On one sticky note write the name of a very well-known person, and on a card write a question about a very well-known fact for that person.
On the second sticky note write someone known to the group but personally known to the volunteer (such as a best friend or spouse) and on their card a question which only the volunteer would know. (you might like to prepare this card in advance, by asking the friend/spouse what your volunteer will know about them.)
Stick the ‘famous person’ note to the volunteer’s forehead so that the congregation can see the name, but the volunteer cannot. The volunteer can ask questions to the congregation who may answer yes / no / don’t know.
So it might go something like:
Is this person alive? – yes
Is this person male? – no
Is this person important? – yes
Is this person British? – very!
Is this person in politics? – no
Is this person the Queen? – yes!
At this point, hand the volunteer the card and have them ask the extra question:
What is my favourite dog? – corgi
Now use the second sticky note. It might go something like:
Is this person alive? – yes
Is this person male? – yes
Is this person handsome? – you think so, yes!
Is this person someone I know personally? – very much, yes!
Is this person my husband? – yes!
Now the volunteer can ask their extra question:
What is my favourite toothpaste?
Nobody will know that, except the wife (hopefully!), so we can see the difference between knowing somebody personally and just knowing about them.
We need to know God personally. Just knowing about him is not enough
Jonathan Swift (he of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’) said, “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.” That can be no more true than it is today, with our post-truth media and flim-flamocracy (rule by those with the best PR agents).
I can remember shaking my head in bewilderment at a party I attended. When it was discovered that I am British, I was button-holed by a devotee of Arthurian legends who wanted to know if I lived anywhere near Camelot and whether I’d ever seen the round table. Pointing out that he was enthusing about works of literary fiction, rather than history, had no effect whatsoever.
So today we have flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, young-earth creationists*, and moon-landing / climate-change deniers all holding intellectually untenable positions with a grip so strong that a trip around the earth or to the moon would not convince. If they never got to their opinions by facts and logic, then facts and logic are not going to get them back.
In fact, (pun intended) facts can make it worse! In recent studies, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when people were given facts that corrected their erroneous views, instead of changing their opinions they often became even more entrenched. Post-truth indeed!
But hold on. Doesn’t that sound uncomfortably like … ummn … faith? Believing in God despite there being no evidence?
Well, no. It’s not the same. A saving knowledge of God cannot be arrived at purely by logical reasoning, but it is a logically reasonable position.
When Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth he says that he did not bring them the Good News of Jesus with fine words and well-rehearsed reasoning (although that was very fashionable at the time). Why not? Because Paul did not want them to have a head-faith. They needed a heart-faith, and that can only be done by God. Belief about is not the same as belief in.
However, we are creatures of both head and heart, and we need not neglect the former for the latter. We are called to love God not only with our hearts and souls, but with our minds as well. Faith is not blind. It has very good eyesight, better than 20-20. Faith can see past what can arrived at by logic and reason, and perceive (even if not fully comprehend) the mystery beyond.
Krish Kandiah explains it very well by comparison with crossing a road: When I step out from the pavement I cannot know for certain that I will get to the other side – who knows what bizarre happenings may prevent a successful crossing? And yet I step out, in faith that we will cross.
Can I know for certain whether an elephant will come careering around the corner to flatten me as soon as I step out? No, but that does not mean either that I stand for ever on the pavement, waiting for 100% certainly or that I step out blindly, saying, “if Nelly’s headed my way, what can I do?” Instead, I work on reasonable certainty, and accept that I cannot know everything. I step out in faith.
It’s the same with Jesus. Do I have 100% cast-iron proof that my faith is true? No. It’s not the kind of thing one can prove, just the same as I cannot 100% prove that my daughter loves me. She could just be a very convincing actor. Nevertheless, I accept by faith that she does – and that is not an unreasonable faith.
And so it is with Jesus. I accept by God-given faith that he died to pay the bill for my sin and rose to free me from the shackles of death – and that is not an unreasonable faith.
*As a side note, there may be some reading this who bristled at my including young-earth creationists in that list. If you hold to that view, I would warmly encourage you to engage your God-given reason and to carefully read your Bible – what it actually says, not what you have been told it says. I admire your devotion and willingness to stick up for what you think you ought to believe in the face of opposition, but I would like to reassure you that by accepting the evidence of science you are not showing any disrespect for God or for the Bible. In fact, you are showing more respect for the Bible by reading it the way it was intended. The author of early Genesis was not writing a science text book and was not intending to convey scientific facts about the mechanics of creation. He was explaining that the Jewish people should not worship the sun, moon and stars, like the nations around them, because YHWH created them. The stories were never intended to require a literal 6 x 24 hours, nor an order of creation (it is different in chapters 1 and 3 anyway), and certainly not everything appearing in 4004BCE. It is OK to believe the Bible and Darwin!
I live in a world of logic and proof
Sometimes I feel uneasy believing in you, because I cannot prove you.
But deep down I know that even if I could prove you, this would not help,
And that you are far bigger and far greater than anything which human knowledge can describe.
‘Lord, I do believe. Help thou my unbelief.’
1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16) New International Version
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
[This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgements about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgements, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.]
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jonathan Swift, A Letter to a Young Gentleman, Lately Enter’d Into Holy Orders by a Person of Quality (1721), (Letter Dated January 9, 1720)
I am indebted to Quote Investigator for this information
Krish Kandiah, Paradoxology, (2014)