“Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for his quote ‘God is dead,” but he was wrong. To be dead, one has to exist in the first place. God has never been. If anybody is in here to find out about God, you are in the wrong place. This is a course on religion.”
These were the first words I ever heard from Professor Gangadean. His dark brown eyes narrowed as he surveyed the room. The rolled up sleeves of his linen shirt and his silver hair helped him look every bit the part of a wise philosopher.
My excitement for this class had been building for weeks. Desks were arranged in a half-circle so everyone could see everyone else. I was so eager to learn what set Christianity apart from all the other religions in the world that I was the first to arrive. Apparently I did not get the memo that Christians did not take classes taught by Professor Gangadean.
I sat there in stunned silence looking around at the smiles on the faces of his approving audience. I did not belong here. After the class was over I intended to go to admissions and switch classes, but the next question he asked changed everything.
“Who in here is a Christian?”
I don’t remember why I raised my hand. Looking back I would like to think it was the strength of my convictions in the face of opposition to my God. In reality it was probably jus habit from all the times I absent-mindedly raised my hand in church whenever the preacher asked a question and wanted a response. Only once I realized that my hand was in the air did I take a moment to look around the room. Mine was the only hand in the air.
“What is your name?”
“Do you believe in truth, Adam?”
I knew where he was trying to take me. I tried to choose my words very carefully.
“So if I can prove to you there is no God, will you cease to believe in Him?”
It was a trap. If I said “yes” and he would present some logical argument that I didn’t know the answer to and I would look like a fool and hypocrite if I did not enounce my faith in God. If I said “no” then I looked like a close-minded hypocrite who would not accept the truth.
“Absolute truth can only know with absolute knowledge. Until you know everything, you cannot be certain what you think is “truth” is entirely accurate.”
His eyes narrowed a he took a step closer to where I was seated.
“If it is impossible to know anything for sure, then how can we believe in anything? Why do you sit down in your chair without looking? You can’t know that it will be there.”
“I play the percentages.”
A chorus of chuckles broke out in the class. The look on the professor’s face made it clear that he did not like being upstaged in his own class. An ice-cold smile broke out across his face as he played it off.
“Well I hope you take in everything I have to say this semester with an open mind. You may find that when I am done the percentages will have turned in my favor.”
A chill traveled up my spine. I could feel the eyes of the room on me. To be honest, I was scared. I did not know how to argue the existence of God. I just knew how to follow Him.
Only when he turned around to begin his lecture did I finally take a breath. This was not what I had signed up for, but if I changed now the whole class would lose any respect for what I believed.
I sat there trying to take notes as my mind searched for a way to show him the truth about God. Before I realized it he was done. Just before he dismissed the class he spoke one more time to me.
“Adam, you would agree that God is logical?”
“Tell me, is it logical for a being who is perfect to want to be surrounded by creatures who hate and steal and rape and kill?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know or you don’t like the answer?”
Silence. In my mind it lasted for an hour, although it probably only spanned a minute.
I just sat there as everyone shuffled out to their next class. To this day I don’t know why I did it, but I stood up after everyone had left and said, “Professor, Jesus loves you.”
He was leaning back against his desk with arms folded. The only sign he gave that he had heard what I said was a small laugh under his breath.
I walked out that day feeling like such a failure. Everything inside me just wanted to walk away.
When the next week rolled around, I was determined to show that I would not be so easily scared. I found an open desk right in the middle at the front and sat in it.
Professor Gangadean began his lecture without the slightest clue that he remembered anything that had happened the week before. He was an eloquent speaker. His ability to insert a clever joke at just the right times and pull out a fun fact made him easy to listen to. I found myself fascinated by his analysis of Buddhism.
I almost liked him; until he finished.
My heart leapt into my throat in an instant.
“Yes?” I replied hoping no one heard the small tremble in my voice.
“Is it logical for a being who is all loving and all powerful to allow innocent children to suffer and die?”
I had no answer that he could not counter.
“I do not know.”
That was exactly what he was hoping for. Another small laugh and a, “Class dismissed” was all he needed to say.
Once again I felt like I had failed my God, but once again when everyone had left I told him, “Jesus loves you.”
That semester moved quickly and our ritual continued throughout. He had made his point to everyone in his class. At the end of each class he would ask me a question I could not answer. Every time my only answer was, “I don’t know.” But before I left I would remind him that Jesus loved him. I enjoyed that class and learned more than I thought I would, given the circumstances.
When the day of our final exam arrived, I prayed that God would give me the answer to the question I knew he would ask. Silence was His only reply.
The test was not too difficult and was intended to make you think more than just recite what he had already said. I took my time. If this was to be the last thoughts he had from me I wanted them to be quality ones. When I finally finished I stood and walked to the front to turn it in.
“Adam, I would like to speak with you after everyone has finished.”
The chills returned and I simply nodded and returned to my seat. The silence and waiting over the next 10 minutes nearly drove me crazy with worry.
After the last student had left, Professor Gangadean came and sat in the desk next to me, turning it to face me.
“I want to tell you something that not many people know about me.”
“I have a daughter. Her name is Hannah and she has a severe mental disability.”
I wanted to say something, but I was afraid that whatever I said would be wrong.
“I have dedicated my life to the pursuit of reason and logic and yet I have a full grown daughter who can hardly reason at all. Why would God do that to me?”
It was the first time he had asked as if God existed.
“I don’t know.”
“Two days ago Hannah got out of the house. I don’t know how she did it, but when I looked out the window in my study, I saw her on the sidewalk in front of our house. I rushed outside to get her, but by the time I got to the front door she had already stepped into the street. Any child could have seen the truck coming, but she could not process the fact that it was going to hit her if she kept walking.”
Slowly tears began to fill my eyes. I did not dare wipe them away. He had not broken eye contact for even a second since he began his story.
“I ran. I ran as fast as I could. The truck had no way of seeing her behind my car that was parked along the street. Time slowed down. I felt as if I was running in water and could not reach her in time. I got to her just in time to throw her out of the way, but my momentum carried me into the path of the truck.”
Warm streaks raced down my cheeks from the tears. He had paused and I could not stand not knowing.
“The truck driver had seen me running and knew something must be wrong. He slammed on the breaks and stopped inches from where I landed.”
No one was injured, but I continued to cry.
“What I did was not logical. I have so much more to offer this world than Hannah. There was no good reason for me trade my life for hers so why did I do it? This question weighed on my mind so heavily that I could not sleep that night. After hours of looking for the logic in my actions I did something I never thought I would do. I prayed.”
Hope swelled in my heart, but I still didn’t know if this was all a part of his last attempt to disprove my beliefs. I began to believe when I saw the tears in his eyes.
“After that it all became clear. The things that seem so illogical make perfect sense in the light of love. Why would a perfect God sacrifice himself for the likes of us? Why has He allowed free will? Every question I used to show you that your beliefs defy reason, they all can be answered in the light of love.”
For the first time since he sat down he smiled.
I don’t know if he did what he did next so that he would never forget or if it was just a coincidence, but he started our game one last time.
“Why did it take me so long to understand?”
This time it was me who laughed. When I finally gained control of the joy that had exploded out of me, all I could do was play along.
“I don’t know.”
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake