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The Quest For God

Sermon by David Kilgour

Westminster Presbyterian Church


November 17, 2002

As we heard in the Old Testament reading, God made his presence known to Elijah not through the wind, an earthquake or fire, but in a “still small voice”.

In the New Testament reading, Paul criticizes the residents of Athens for building an altar “to the unknown God”, whom they worship in ignorance.  Paul refers to the “God that made the World and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, (and) dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” and so on.

Where and how do you and I meet God in our daily lives? 

We encounter Him in many ways, but only if, like Elijah, Paul and millions of other believers since, we are open to Him. 

It’s interesting how the Internet deals with God.  Yesterday, I typed in “proof of God” on the Google search engine; the result was 1,210,000 entries.  “Search For God” produced three million; “God”, about 35,600,000.

There is now, by the way, a daily Presbyterian message and prayer available on the Internet, which you can receive daily at no cost.  To subscribe, simply contact

Only recently, Laura and I received an email from a friend, containing 26 one-liners about God.  Two samples only:

  • Most people want to serve God, but only in an advisory position, and
  • We don’t choose God’s message—His message chooses us.

And consider this ad on the web for a book, A Sceptics Search for God, by Ralph Muncaster.  The ad stresses that the author was stunned to find that fact after fact—biology, history, archaeology, physics—lined up with the Bible’s account.  But what really caught my eye was one line in the ad:  “1456 hours of Sunday school and church turned (the author) into a hard-core atheist.”  I wonder where he attended.

C.S. Lewis

Like many Christians, I’m much attracted by C.S. Lewis, who for many years attempted to ignore God.  One of his biographers, Walter Hooper, notes that Lewis’ atheism began to crumble only when his father became ill.   Finally, wrote Lewis:

  “…I gave in and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed:  perhaps, that night, I was the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

Only two years later (1931) did Lewis come to accept that Jesus was the Son of God.  It was Lewis who later made his famous point about Jesus:


  “I’m trying here to prevent you from saying the really silly thing that people often say about (Jesus):  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’  That’s the one thing you mustn’t say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher.  He’d either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he’s a poached egg—or the Devil of Hell.”


“…you must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.”


Paul Johnson


Another British academic, who has also written a lot about God, is Paul Johnson.  One of his many books, The Quest For God, is about his own religious walk over the years.


The book begins with the point that the existence or non-existence of God is the most important question humans are called to answer.  One of the most extraordinary things about the 20th century for Johnson is that most of humanity continued to believe in God despite the best efforts of numerous writers, including Marx, Hegel, Huxley, Nietzsche, Shaw and Sartre.


He notes that human evil and brutality cost the lives of more than 150 million persons in the century we just left.  Both the Third Riech and the Soviet Union were for Johnson and many other “Godless constructs:  modern paganism in the first case and openly proclaimed atheist materialism in the second.”


Next Christianity


Finally, on a snowy morning when God will forgive us for wondering why we don’t all live closer to the equator, I recently came across a most interesting article, “The Next Christianity” by Phillip Jenkins.  It might be summarized briefly thus:

  • Christianity around the world today is “growing and mutating in ways that observers in the West tend not to see.”  This century will in all likelihood be one in which religions of various kinds replace ideology as the key force across the planet.

  • A new Christian Counter-revolution is already underway beyond affluent suburbs in North America and elsewhere in the industrialized democracies. Jenkins describes it as “super-naturalism and neo-orthodoxy… a vision of Jesus as the embodiment of divine power, who overcomes the evil forces that inflict calamity and sickness upon the human race.”

  • In the global South, he notes, huge and growing Christian populations—360 million in Africa, 480 million in Latin America and 313 million in Asia, compared with only 260 million in North America, are already dominant in the Christian faith.  In fact, the centres of the Christian world have already moved “to Africa, to Latin America, and to Asia…(the) balance will never shift back.”

  • In the case of Africa, for example, the article notes that in 1900 there were only ten million Christians in a continental population of 107 million—about nine percent. Today there are about 360 million African Christians out of 784 million residents (46 percent) on the continent.

  • Within 25 years, the world’s Christians are expected to grow to about 2.6 billion.  By 2025, half of the Christian population will live in Africa and Latin America and another 17 percent in Asia.  By then, Jenkins notes, “the proportion of non-Latino whites among the world’s Christians will have fallen to perhaps one in five.”

  • Pentecostal Christians, who began as a movement only at the beginning of the 20th century, are already 400 million strong—and heavily concentrated in the global South—but by 2040 there could be as many as a billion.

My own work in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and now in Asia has allowed me to observe this Christian phenomenon.  Only recently, for example, in Seoul, South Korea, I attended a 3-hour service on a Thursday night.  The 3000 or so people who attended were mostly between 15-25!

I see in the November issue of the Presbyterian Record that Johnson’s article was in all likelihood adapted from his book, The Next Christendom:The Coming of Global Christianity.  The reviewer Peter Bush, quotes from the book:

“Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and the persecuted, while it atrophies among the rich and secure.”


Bush notes that if there is a shortage of clergy in Canada the situation in Latin America is four times worse.  He quotes author Jenkins:  “Western investment in missions has been cut back dramatically at just the point it is most desperately needed at the peak of the current surge in Christian numbers.”

I’m not suggesting that we all move to El Salvador.  There is plenty to do right here in Canada—both with our own personal quests for God and in persuading others to search for God as well.


May the words of my mouth and the mediation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight.

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