I found myself watching the Channel 4 programme One Born Every Minute this week. Over the course of an hour I laughed cried and winced as we watched an incredibly diverse selection of women giving birth to their babies in NHS hospitals. While the church in China sees someone become a Christian every 30 seconds and the hospitals in our own country see a baby born every minute I started to wonder how often new birth is occurring here in Britain.
I was also reminded of my own experience giving birth to my 3rd child Benjamin a couple of years ago. After 18 hours of labour the doctors became concerned about his oxygen levels and suddenly decided that we needed to get him out urgently – with 3 pushes- or go for a C-section. A whirlwind of activity enveloped me as Frog was taken to be gowned up, machines were wheeled around and I was moved into theatre. In the midst of about 20 people a young doctor came up looked at my chart and said… “Amy Orr-Ewing – I recognize that name – how do I know you?” I replied at the top of my voice “ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?” “Yes” he replied – “You might have heard me speak” – “that’s it he replied, I love your ministry – now I’ve always had this really difficult question” At this point Frog arrived back “Now is not the time – maybe after the delivery?” Benjamin was born safely and is an absolute delight.
As a result of that conversation I had the opportunity to answer the questions of lots of the medical personnel about the Christian faith. One nurse was a convinced atheist – we talked about how one can be sure of what one believes. This is a particular issue for atheists – the danger of making an “absolute negation” – saying that something doesn’t exist can be gently questioned. Imagine that instead of talking about God we were talking about the existence of green spotted stones. In order to say that green spotted stones exist what would I need to do? I would conduct a careful search until I found one. In order to say that green spotted stones don’t exist what would I need to do? I would need to conduct an exhaustive search of the world, the universe and beyond into Ultimate Reality. Only when I had conclusively combed through all of this could I say with confidence that green spotted stones don’t exist. I would need absolute knowledge of the field to make an absolute negation. In the same way claiming that I know that God doesn’t exist is very difficult to sustain – to make such a claim we would need to have absolute and exhaustive knowledge of reality. This probably leaves us closer to agnosticism – which is to say that we don’t know if God exists.
For the nurse I was talking to the next question I asked her was – would she like to think about evidence around God’s existence? If she is at least open to the possibility of there being a God might it not be a good idea to think about some of the evidences for Him being there? We couldn’t have a long conversation – the context didn’t allow that but I could tell her that there are multiple evidences for God, touching on all kinds of different data and realms of knowledge. Whether that be cosmological – around the origins and complexity of the Universe, ontological – around aspects of existence like love and thought which transcend chemistry but are nonetheless really there, moral – how we discern good and evil, historical – evidence for the entrance of God into human history in the person of Christ or personal – evidence from the lives of Christians including myself. I asked her if any of these interested her in particular so that I could give her something deeper to read and question further and she told me about her Christian mother whom she suspected was praying for her.
It is often at the most unexpected of times that we find ourselves in conversation with people about the Christian faith. Perhaps that is why Peter reminded us in his letter “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope within.” 1 Peter 3:15.
We don’t determine when the opportunities come but we are responsible for being ready to give answers – however inconvenient the timing may be. This is something I want to get better at and I hope that in my lifetime One Born Every Minute might be a phrase used to describe the British church. I suspect this will only be possible if every Christian in every walk of life starts heeding Peter’s advice one by one, in conversation with our friends, our neighbours, our work colleagues each of us personally rising to the evangelistic challenge facing our generation.