“Show Your Work!” Do you remember seeing those words at the top of an exam? It was not enough to give an answer, even the right answer. You had to show how you arrived at your conclusion. This demand to show your work wasn’t just true in subjects like math or physics where there is only one right answer, it was also there for essays. You were told to take a position on an issue and then provide sound reasoning for your stance. And if you wanted to do well on the writing portion of a college entrance exam, “showing your work” was imperative.
I wonder, however, how many have ever shown their work regarding the question of God. When I say God I mean an eternal Creator who has revealed who he is, called us to walk in his way, and will judge us according to our response to him. The question is: do you believe such a God exists? Many today enthusiastically raise their hand to answer, and do so with an emphatic yes or no. But my question is can they show their work. Do you they have sound reasons for their position? Do you?
If the question at hand were relative to whether Nike shoes were better than New Balance, the inability to show one’s work could be dismissed. The consequences of one’s position on the shoe matter are minimal at most, and, furthermore, one can hardly be expected to maintain a well thought out answer to all of life’s mundane questions. But the question of God, at least as I have presented it, is not of an inconsequential nature. If there is a God who will indeed judge us for the way we respond to his self-revelation, then we ignore him at a great price. If there is not such a God, we can go on our merry way.
Showing our work can be a bit trickier than we think regardless of where we stand on the question of God. I say this because our first response may be to provide reasons why we want God to exist or not to exist, but wanting something to be true falls short of supporting its validity. Thomas Nagel, prominent atheist philosopher, writes: “I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”  Sorry, Dr. Nagel, but dismissing God based on your personal desire wouldn’t fare too well on an exam. On the other hand, a died-in-the-wool believer might say something like, “I don’t know what I would do without my belief in God.” That might be so, but could not a child with an imaginary friend say the same thing about that which we know is not real?
These days, it seems like most people are pretty firm on their answer concerning God. They even proudly raise the flag for one side of the question or the other. I don’t decry that. I like it when people have a strong sense of what they believe. But it’s hard to take people too seriously if they can’t show their work.
 Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (Oxford University Press, 1997), 130.
John likes to help people wrestle with the big questions of life in his work with Search Ministries. He served as a pastor in Houston for 16 years, earned his doctorate at Biola University, and is a contributing author of Reasons to Believe: Thoughtful Responses to Life’s Toughest Questions.