There's something about the God debate that troubles me. The atheists demand evidence for God, and trumpet their confident assertions that he doesn't exist. The Christians (why aren't Muslims and Jews involved in this debate more?) argue back, fighting the battle on God's behalf. It basically boils down to the atheist argument that it is possible to explain the emergence of the world in its own terms, whether through physics (Hawking) or biology (Dawkins), with the religious coming back with the argument that even so, how can something emerge out of nothing? However the laws of evolution or gravity might provide a complete mechanism for launching the world and developing life, it is still hard to conceive of something appearing out of nothing at all, the basic problem the atheist argument has yet to answer properly, in my view at least.
Nonetheless, all this does slightly leave me cold and misses something essential about the nature of Christian faith and theology. Even if it were established by proper argumentation that God existed, if Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and friends suddenly announced that after all they were convinced and that God did exist after all, what difference would it make? Arriving at the conclusion that God exists is a long way from Christian faith. And of course it could never really happen that way anyway Jesus says: "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7.17). In other words, it is only when I begin to act on the words of Jesus, to live as if it might be true that God is there, loves me, you and the world, that I will begin to know for sure whether Jesus and all those who say there is a God are right or not.
Christian belief is the kind of thing that only comes into its own, only becomes real when activated by practice, not just by assent. Until then, the arguments seem rather sterile. It is why when Christina faith becomes inactive and discipleship ceases, before long people often stop even believing in God in any substantial way. As George Bernanos once put it: "Faith is not a thing one loses. We merely cease to shape our lives by it." Jesus also says repeatedly '"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." (Lk 11.28). It is only when hearing translates into doing that we begin to understand. Christian theology cannot be separated from Christian practice, and for that reason, arguments over the existence of God that lack that dimension, that fail to emphasise that you only begin to know God when you obey him, will always ultimately miss the point.