Is it time for you to share your story or experience with God?
Does God exist? Have you ever prayed for God to prove that He exists or is listening?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin, author of the true story and reporter of his communication with God, and host Scott Langdon discuss two letters from readers Shaquoiah and Eden responding to God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Scott shares Shaquoiah and Eden's very different but equally deep stories of how God responded when they prayed for proof. Jerry shares the test he gave God when his conversations with God began. God's answers are as unique as each person and their story. How has God answered you?
This conversation takes us outside tradition and opens the mind to spirituality beyond religion. Is God saying something through a neighbor or friend, or maybe in the silence, God is saying more than one expects? What is your story? We want to hear from you!
Read God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher.
Begin the dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher
Related Episodes: [What's On Your Mind] Spiritual Nudges; Seeing With Divine Eyes; Is God Hiding?; Trusting God; Mindful Moments; God's Frequency; Spiritual Living; A Relationship With God; Spiritual Judgment; Encountering Divine Silence
Related Episodes: [Video] God, are You listening?
Scott Langdon [00:00:17] This is God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. A dramatic adaptation and continuing discussion of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin. He was a lifelong agnostic, but one day he had an occasion to pray. To his vast surprise, God answered- in words. Being a philosopher, he had a lot of questions, and God had a lot to tell him. Episode 108.
Scott Langdon [00:01:10] Hello and welcome to episode 108 of God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. I'm your host, Scott Langdon. And today we bring you the 11th edition of our series What's On Your Mind? In today's episode, Jerry and I discuss two separate emails we received from two different people back to back. Each of them, one from Shaquoiah and one from Eden, tells the story of someone asking God to prove God's existence and how they each interpreted what happened next. Though they asked the same question in their own way, Shaquoiah and Eden bring their own unique and personal experience to the question, as does each one of us. Join us as we explore two different stories of people experiencing and responding to what Jerry and I like to call the "divine nudge." I hope you enjoy the episode.
Scott Langdon [00:02:06] Welcome back, my friends. This is episode 108, What's On Your Minds. This week, Jerry, we've got two great emails.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:13] Yeah, they have a common theme between them that I don't recall seeing in other responses to the book. And they came in one right after the other, even though they're different people, who knows where they live, but that kind of grabbed my attention when I saw- ah, this same unusual theme appearing in both and both prayed to God to prove that God exists.
Scott Langdon [00:02:36] You wonder, you wonder how one feels about being asked to prove they exist. Well, the fact that you're asking me--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:46] Right. These are funny questions.
Scott Langdon [00:02:46] Aren't you asking me if--
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:48] Yes, yes.
Scott Langdon [00:02:49] So what kind of response do you want? You know. And I think that's really, that's really the point that, you know, we can really talk about. One of the points we can talk about is- what kind of response do you want when you have a prayer like that?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:01] Yes, that's right.
Scott Langdon [00:03:02] You know. What are you looking for?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:04] They have this roughly the same question, but then in their situations, they may be asking slightly different questions. And so we need to pay close attention to that. I think I was mentioning to you the other day as we were looking at these, that this is exactly what Saint Anselm does in the famous book that he'd written in the Middle Ages, where he defines theology as faith seeking understanding. That's where that famous formulation comes from. He gives us the canonical version of the ontological argument. But all of that occurs within the framework of a prayer. The book is a prayer. The essay, whatever it is, is a prayer, and it's a prayer in which we ask God to prove that God exists. And so it's so odd, you know, that this becomes like kind of classic in the history of theology, but it's the-- ontological proof is presented as if God is illuminating His mind. He doesn't like God: An Autobiography put it in the words in God's mouth. He doesn't, I gather, experience it that way. But he experiences as if he's being illuminated by the Divine. The Divine is giving him this understanding that he then lays out, and then what he's looking for is something like the ontological proof. I don't think that's quite what these people are looking for. So anyway, we'll see in a minute what they're looking for.
Scott Langdon [00:04:33] Right? Maybe not quite in that same way, but they are looking, it seems, for what this connection innately seems to be.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:43] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:04:44] Right? If they if they seem disconnected from something, there is an initial premise that there is a connection or should be a connection, which I feel disconnected to or from. And so both of them seem to come from that place. We have Shaquoiah and Eden this week. Two beautiful names, I think, to start with. First of all.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:05] Yes. Aren't they? Yes.
Scott Langdon Right? But we'll talk-- we'll start with Shaquoiah. She writes in and she says this: “My first experience with God was an unexpected one. You see, growing up I knew who God was, but wasn’t properly brought up being Christian. My family were the kind of Christians that believed he was somewhat real but didn’t follow through with going to church or praying everyday. My questioning of God really came when I was in high school. I went to a Christian private school but didn’t really believe what they were teaching as there were always questions of science. So one day I decided to pray to God. I didn’t think he would listen but I gave it a shot anyways. On Thursdays we usually have chapel time, therefore I figured it was the perfect opportunity. So as my Reverend spoke about Jesus, I instead prayed in my head. It went along the lines of “God, or Jesus whoever is listening. can you prove your existence?” I didn’t really know what I was saying but stuck with it. After that I somewhat forgot about it throughout the rest of the week. Until the coming Saturday, my experience reminded me. On this day I had gone out with my friend and brother to the city for the day. After a long day we decided to call a cab and head home. Just before we called a cab, this man walks up to us. He looks at me and the others and says to each “Do you believe in God” our answered were sorta like yeah but not really. He then smiled and said that’s okay and looked at me and said “Have you opened your heart to God yet?” I was kind of put on the spot so I just said No. He then smiled again, asked for my name before he offered to pray for me. I said Yes, so he said a little prayer for me before giving us each a small book of The Gospel of Mark. Till this day I still have the book. It reminds me of my small experience with God.”
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:15] Isn't that amazing?
Scott Langdon [00:07:17] I love that one.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Amazing story. An amazing story. Well, here's what I wrote at the time: “Shaquoiah, What is great about your comment is that it illustrates something important about our relationship with God. Divine communications are not always dramatic or vivid or explicit. They can even come by way of what someone else says to you. The important thing is how you take it in, recognizing the divine message and taking it into your life. It was, in fact, an answer to your prayer.” And so, “Bless,” I conclude to Shaquoiah. And I was struck at the end, I don't know if I'd picked up on it before, is where the comment concludes with this reminds me of my small experience with God. And so she calls it a small experience, but an experience with God.
Scott Langdon [00:08:21] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:22] And, you know, it's not quite explicitly that. Not like the peculiarly vivid experience I had. And yet she fully picks up on that fact. Hey, this was an experience with God, but does not magnify it. In fact, almost does the opposite. My small experience- just taking it in her personal way. Without self-inflation, you might say.
Scott Langdon [00:08:45] Hmm. Hmm.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:46] Okay. Yeah. Okay. And what has struck me about the first question when Shaquoiah ask and prayed, those lines- are God or Jesus, whoever is listening. Can you prove your existence? And I was struck by two things there. One is whoever is listening. And that was very much like in episode one, my first prayer.
Scott Langdon [00:09:14] I thought that too.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:15] Yeah, you realized that? Prayer of gratitude. And I don't know who to be grateful to. So I said the Lord, because that fits my tradition. But God, Jesus, Lord Krishna of the Hindus, just a benign universe, I just knew I had to express an authentic feeling of gratitude to something that was, you might say, bigger than I am.
Scott Langdon [00:09:38] Right, right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:38] Beyond me. And. And there's a lesson in that. You don't need to have the address in advance. This is part of the exploration- is to find out who is the addressee or what's the nature of the addressee, the person to whom you're addressing this. And then, can you prove your existence? And I have a feeling that doesn't mean a proof like can you prove E=MC^2 , or, you know, a theorem in geometry. My sense of this is it means, can you prove your existence to me? To me, it's a much more personal thing. I don't you know, this person probably knows about there are these standard arguments for the existence of God. The first cause, there's got to be a first cause. That kind of abstract argument. But what is that to me?
Scott Langdon [00:10:30] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin Shaquoiah can you prove your existence to me? And then that's what at the end-- And then I was struck. I didn't really know what I was saying, realizing this peculiarity that Can you prove your existence? But I stuck with it. And that, again, that's important. Is part of why Shaquoiah is succeeding here is you don't have to know what you're saying. You stick with it. You're following the trails, the breadcrumbs as best you can. Your spiritual instincts, your intuitions, your just feeling of you're feeling your way along. And so you say the prayer that seems natural to say you don't know how to address it and to whom you're addressing it. And you're just saying, can you prove your existence to me, whatever that means for the person giving the prayer.
Scott Langdon [00:11:23] For me reading this email, I thought about my experience and how it might have been similar to Shaquoiah’s in the sense that she grew up in a Christian private school in a tradition where her parents had not seemed like her, what she said, her parents didn't necessarily go to church every week and that kind of thing. Which, sort of, talked the talk but didn't walk the walk, I guess you might say? I don't know.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:51] Yeah, yeah.
Scott Langdon [00:11:51] But she, she picked up on that. But it got to a place where the religious tradition said all it was going to say to me, and I've taken it all in. But then there's science, too. So that seems to conflict. And so I've got the religious tradition and I've got the science thing and-- but where is that personal connection that I know I feel that seems to be slipping away. The more I dig into the religious tradition, the more I dig into the science, it seems like I'm getting more and more disconnected. So I'm going to address what I believe has always been there, like I did. And we talked about the 8 year old boy in episode 103. The last time we did What's On Our Minds, we talked about that idea that I always knew there was a God but similar to Shaquoiah with the religious tradition, the worldly things. You know, science comes in and you get confused and you start to get really into the character of the world. You know, what are you playing in the world? And you forget about who is-- who is it that's playing the character? You see, you start to feel that disconnection.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:56] And you have the feeling that her parents were fairly disconnected, too. As were, as the story goes on, as were her friends. They all said, a little later, "Do you believe in God?" Well, yeah, sort of, you know, but not really. And so there were all in that-- there is a kind of form of conventional religiosity where you know that like a true false question. God exists. You all say true. And yet I don't feel it. My life isn't lived in terms of it doesn't really mean anything to me. So she seemed to be somewhat in an environment of a kind of conventional religiosity held at an arm's length were, well, okay, but not okay, doesn't really mean much to me. And that's, I guess, one reason I take that question. Can you prove your existence to me and can you prove it to me in some way relevant to me and my life and my concerns? And then the remarkable next event and I'm very light, as you know, on the miracle talk. I don't like-- I know people who they get a good parking place, it's a miracle.
Scott Langdon [00:14:12] Yeah. No, yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:13] But I go easy on that kind of talk. On the other hand, you have these events. I mean, how remarkable is this? They're about to hail a cab. They've been downtown, you know, sightseeing or whatever. And this man, they don't know, a stranger, walks up and says to each of these, there are three of them, "Do you believe in God?" And that's where they answer. Yeah, but not really. You know. He then smiled, said, "That's okay." That's a wonderfully generous response on the part of the stranger.
Scott Langdon [00:14:50] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:51] This kind of divine stranger. Okay. I understand that. Looked at me. She says and said, "Have you opened your heart to God yet? Have you opened your heart?" And notice, that's a slightly different question. First question is a question about belief.
Scott Langdon [00:15:11] Mm hmm.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:11] Now, this is a question. And he says, okay, you don't exactly believe you're kind of halfway believe. But there's some prior question. Basically, that's what I take the stranger to be doing. But what's the prior question to belief anyway? Have you opened- you've got to open your heart. Have you opened your heart? And hmmmm, you know, that becomes a question I put on the spot. And so. Well, no, no. Well, it's hard to give the answer to the question of can you prove your existence in this personal sense of proof? If you haven't opened your heart and so he then offered to pray. No. I said no. And obviously this registers on Shaquoiah he then even smiled again. Asked for my name, offered to pray for me. I said. "Yes." Well, that's itself the step of opening one's heart. Before I was a believer, I found that my two kids were praying for me. I found later that they'd been praying for me. Well, that's nice. Before I was a believer, I had someone who took me to lunch, a strong Catholic who took me to lunch, and we were involved in many issues and and higher education together. But on this lunch, she wanted to know, why was I not a believer? And so we talked about that. She gave me considerations that she thought might help move me along. And suggested something I could read and a priest I could talk to, who she assured me was very intellectual and philosophical who could answer my questions. And I've known people who are very much feel insulted and assaulted with this kind of lunch- luncheon discussion. But I felt she's trying to help me. You know, she believes these things deeply. She believes that they're the most important things in life. So she's trying to she's offering the gift of her most profound and important beliefs. And I didn't share them. I was living by Plato and Aristotle and so forth, and perfectly happy. But she offered that and this guy comes along and he offers that and Shaquoiah’s already beginning to open her heart says, "Yes." Basically, it would be nice if you were to pray for me, wouldn't it? You know. He gives them Gospel of Mark, which she seems to rather cherish and certainly makes a point of still owning it. And every time I guess she looks at it, it reminds her of her small experience with God, which I take it to be the encounter with the character I'm calling the Divine Stranger.
Scott Langdon [00:18:10] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:11] I mean, that's the, in this case, that's the medium of the Divine.
Scott Langdon [00:18:18] I was struck by that very thing and remembered-- I can't remember if this is in the book or if you and I talked about this a different time-- the idea of looking through a telescope. Actually, I think this might have been something you and Richard Oxenberg talked about in some of the dialogues, but it was the idea of seeing the moon, let's say, through a telescope. And I think the idea, Richard, the idea of-- it's filtered through the telescope. That somehow looking through the telescope, the mechanism through which you're seeing the moon, changes the moon. But it doesn't.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:18:54] Right.
Scott Langdon [00:18:54] It is the instrument, and the way the glass is set and everything, it makes it look more clear and closer to us. But it's not changing the moon. It is the instrument through which the moon is visible to us. So in that sense, I feel like you could say, as you have just done, that this stranger was a divine stranger.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:14] Yeah. Yeah.
Scott Langdon [00:19:15] That he was the telescope, if you will, through which Shaquoiah could see God and hear God's message.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:23] Yeah. Yeah. There is such a-- this is a profound question. What are the presentations of the Divine? And a lot of them are in these indirect forms, including, it can be a statue of the Virgin Mary, or in the Hindu tradition, the Lord Krishna. There, they believe-- the Christians, this always looked like a stupid idolatry, that if you build a shrine with the figure of a God or Goddess inside the shrine and it is dedicated by a Hindu priest or whatever the right title would be, the form of the dedication is an invitation to the God to be present here. And if when you finish that, the God presumably has accepted, and then when you look at the statue, you're not really looking at a statue, you're looking at something like through the telescope. The statue is the telescope to see. Well, let's assume it's Krishna. That's the one I know best. And I remember there's one writer, Diana Eck, who teaches at Harvard and has a wonderful book it's something from Bozeman to Banaras. She starts out a methodist youth, intense method youth in Bozeman, Montana, and later ends up studying Hinduism in the holy city of Banaras. But she comments, "This could happen in a movie." And there's this wonderful Indian made movie, there's a bad Western made movie of the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Which Lord Krishna is a major player because Krishna has a human form and the actor does so remarkable a job that it reminded me of Diana Eck's comment. This may be how Lord Krishna is presenting Himself to all these people of India. Why not? Why not? And God can present himself through this stranger. The stranger may not have felt divinely imbued, may have, may have not, may have been not an ordinary stranger. You know, we don't know. May... have that story. But the divine can present itself in a very authentic way, just the way the funny device of the telescope, which originally a lot of people distrusted. Well, what is this? This is a trick, you know.
Scott Langdon [00:22:09] Right.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:10] Came to see, no, this is an instrument for seeing. And you're always talking, Scott, with our modern technology.
Scott Langdon [00:22:17] Right. Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:18] How amazing it is. You and I are in different places now and can see each other talk in real time. And in fact, right now I could be in Bozeman and you could be in Banaras.
Scott Langdon [00:22:29] Sure, yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:29] You know, halfway around the world and it's still you. Right? And it's like the telescope and these divine manifestations through various ways which can be events, can be... I was just reading one of the people I work with in Theology Thought Walls talks-- puts a preface on his book, and I've never known this about him. I've read his interesting scholarship theological work, but here he tells the personal story how as a college student, one day he's walking along and you ask, "What is he seeing?" Well, he's seeing what he'd seen every other day. It's the flowers and trees and bushes and so forth. But this day, they're full of divine electricity. They're just alive with divine presence. And that's one of the funny things. There's a sense in which God is always present, and yet there's also a sense in which God is sometimes extra present, you know, vividly present. And often it's moments like, birth, death, moments of crisis, life, transition, marriage. I prayed for God to be present when Abigail and I got married. I got the. "Oh, you couldn't keep me away," you know? And that's somewhat different from the general divine presence. But anyway, here was a dramatic example of one of these other divine presences answering Shaquoiah's prayer.
Scott Langdon [00:24:44] This week we're also talking about a second email from Eden. This is a rather lengthy one, but I think it's such a really interesting story. And she goes into a great deal of detail about an experience that she had. And the thing about these that I really love, and again, if you're listening out there and you'd like to share your experience with God, please email us at email@example.com because these are the kinds of emails-- well, we love all kinds, for sure. When we prepare to use them for this particular episode series: What's On Your Mind, what's really interesting to me is when they start right off with, "I had this experience with God, this was an experience--" Because what we're, I think, what I'm always looking for is not- can I help you be saved? You know there's something wrong with you. I have something that's right for you. Let me give it to you. But rather- have you had an experience of the divine? And if you have, what did it look like? Maybe you didn't even know. Maybe it's, maybe you don't believe in God. But then you've had these experiences and you go, okay, I don't believe in God, but I've had this experience and I have questions. You know, I have just a ton of questions, you know, because if there's no God, then why would I have this experience? But I love just thinking about- hey, I think this was an experience with God and here's how it went. So any time someone shares their experience or what they believe to be an experience of God, I'm all for it because I want to see what that looks like. And what did that look like for you? Because your experience is going to be different than mine, and yet I can feel the connectedness in the shared experience. Does that make sense?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:30] Yeah. Yeah. The nature of reality is that you can always see it from an angle. I tend to put it in a perceptual metaphor. You can see the building from up close, or from afar. Or from this side or from that side. The back side. From the aerial view. And in fact, there are infinite numbers. You know, there are an infinite points even in any given circle, there are an infinite number of perspectives from which one could view the building. And here we haven't even gone into the different beliefs you'd have. Somebody would know the history. Someone else would appreciate the architecture. Someone else would think, "Oh, this is the building by the rival, the rival religion." Or, you know, it can have all these other meanings as well. And you go back to the simple perceptual metaphor. You get the most adequate understanding of the building. If you learn, "Oh, it looks that way from where you're standing? That's interesting. That's data. You know, that's a piece of the puzzle. And so what each person and then if it seems somewhat distorted by a kind of prejudicial attitude to the-- I'm thinking of it being like a church, you know, toward that denomination, let's say. Well, then you take that into account. Okay. That's a-- you have perceptual distortions, too. You're looking through a somewhat twisted glass or something or standing in a funny place where you can't get a very good view seeing it through branches. Okay. You take those into account, too, but you put them all together and you've got the most adequate understanding you can get. So anybody whose got a different understanding than you do or different experience than what you have, maybe quite different type of experience. I talk, we talk about experiences of God, but it can be experiences that one doesn't conceptualize in terms of God. And yet what in my language I would think of as experiences of the divine.
Scott Langdon [00:28:30] Mm hmm.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:31] There are all those differences, but they inform all of us to say, "Oh, you can have that kind of experience." It isn't thought of in terms of God, but thought of in this other way. That's informative too, know that, you know, that enriches our understanding and our imagination. We understand a lot of these things through a kind of conceptual and perceptual imagination.
Scott Langdon [00:28:59] Eden writes in and shares this experience. Eden writes this: “I believe I’ve had a few experiences involving words of guidance, warnings, or even just a feeling that he was there. I didn’t grow up in kind of Christian home where we were active in the church or community. I was taught very little about the Bible or God. However, I started to know God mainly through his presence. I would feel him throughout random times in my life. I felt him calling out to me, wanting me to talk to him and to develop a relationship with him. The words were hard to hear then, and I could convince myself to think about something else. I wanted to think about something else because I didn’t want to face the reality that I hadn’t sought him out, that I hadn’t fully given myself to him. I did not hear him a lot of times, but each time I remember knowing with certainty it was God who was speaking. At a particularly low point in my life, I tried to convince myself that all of those times I did experience his presence weren’t real. I wanted to believe that he didn’t exist because I thought it would have been easier than believing he did exist, with everything bad that happened in the world. One day, I asked God to prove to me that he did exist. It was then that I felt a calling to go outside. I sat down on the grass, and I just waited for him. I was listening to music at the time, and a random song came on that I had only heard once before but never really listened to. The title of the song happened to be my name. The song was about starting over and being saved. At that moment, I felt God. This time was different than the last few times -- his presence was very powerful. I’m not sure how other people feel God, but for me, it started at the center and radiated throughout my body. I felt his presence not only inside me but a part of the world around me. I saw him and his love in everything. It was a beautiful reminder that he was with me and had always wanted to be.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:16] You know, that's wonderful, isn't it. Yeah. My reply to Eden, I said at the time: “God is making Himself very available to you, and you are doing a wonderful job of being open and ready to respond. One key to the spiritual life is simply to have an open soul. You let God in and you trust His presence in whatever ways it shows itself. That it itself a lot of what God wants of us. Please keep me posted on the course of your spiritual life. You know, I had the feeling, oh, this is the beginning of what will be a long story and maybe all of them are, but this struck me that way. And again, this go back to- I ask God to prove to me that He did exist. It's that logical oddity. That's a different feel somehow than Shaquoiah’s question, I don't know if it's... But it's also, it's personal. It's again, not just a wanting the proof on the blackboard or something, but it's personal. And then that's what leads to the story. "I felt a calling to go outside. I sat down on the grass and I just waited for him. This is the right thing to be doing. His praise proved me exist." [10.6s] Feels this divine nudge, you know, a calling or feeling that he should go outside. He doesn't know why. What he's supposed to do outside. So he just sits on the the grass. And I waited for him. He says, "Just waited." Okay. Falls in the divine court. Right?
Scott Langdon [00:32:59] Hmmm.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:33:01] I was listening to music at the time and a random song, and here's where I'm light on miracles. And, listen to this, the improbability of it- a random song came on that I'd only heard once before but never really listened to an d the title of the song happened to be my name. I don't know if it's called Eden or this is a, you know, just his Internet name or her Internet name. But it happens to be Eden's real name. And how arresting is that to get attention? And that was then about starting over as the title Eden would suggest, you know, kind of the beginning and felt God in this much more dramatic and vivid and powerful way than ever before than any of these other moments. So anyway, that's again, a wonderful way of -proved to me you exist. Well, yeah, this is the kind of proof I was looking for, right?
Scott Langdon [00:34:03] Yes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:34:03] The kind of proof that Eden is looking for.
Scott Langdon [00:34:06] Yeah. You know, when I look at both of these two emails, Shaquoiah and Eden's and how they came back to back and both asking God to prove that God exists. And then you look at both of their stories and you look at Shaquoiah had a religious upbringing, or at least in a religious tradition. We see, you know, her folks maybe weren't fully engaged themselves, but thought it was the right thing to do to raise them up in this way. And so Shaquoiah was there and then science and things. And so she came to a place of question from there. Quite the opposite side, Eden never raised religiously, never really knew much about the Bible or Jesus or anything, came to a same place. God, can you prove to me you exist? So from almost opposite ends of the spectrum, they both get to the same place of I'm-- I feel like I want to ask someone something more than me- do you exist? I feel like all of these are connected in one-- many, many ways, but one of the ways I'd like to connect them is what God says to you pretty early on, which is, "I am a personal God."
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:35:20] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:35:21] And in all of these, your experience, my experience, your colleagues experience, Eden's experience, almost all of it, I would argue all of the emails that we've talked about, the heart of what they're looking for is this personal God that might be talked about in the religious traditions that you've been brought up in, but maybe hasn't been experienced in a way that is understood to be that. So we're-- God-- I feel like that pulling that, why do I want to pray? Why do I want to ask if God exists? Is this divine pull of God reaching in and saying, I want to have a personal relationship with you? The religion talks about what I'm up to, talks about what we're doing. And as a people, we are collectively working, you know, as a church or as a whatever it is. But the personal aspect, God, is always pulling on that string, I believe.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:36:16] Yeah, this was to me very striking. The early part of what Eden was talking about, it's funny, did not grow up in a heavily, you know, rich religious environment, but nevertheless, at various times, a few experiences, Eden says, involving words of guidance, warnings, or even just a feeling that He was there. So here is someone who has had all along some genuine divine nudges, let's just call them. However, I started to know God, mainly through His presence. Well, that's-- here's someone in one way already miles ahead of most people. You know, no matter how well they know this or that, scripture or memorized creeds and so forth, or are regular in this or that religious practice, but here's someone who started to know God through life, through the divine presence, and noticing these warnings and sense of divine presence and noticing that they're God. I just found this amazing- I felt God calling out just in the personal way. You were just talking about Scott, God calling out to me, wanting me to talk to him to develop a relationship with Him. Eden felt that. Eden felt that. And that's a profound connection right there. You know, how better do you get? You might say more intimate, do you get with the divine than feeling that divine voice or urge, calling, calling, calling to establish a relationship. And Eden's response, and that's in some ways similar to Shaquoiah here, Eden's response is- I didn't want to think about that. The reason I didn't want to think about it is that I wouldn't want to face the reality that I had not sought Him out.
Scott Langdon [00:38:17] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:18] So Eden feels the responsibility. You know, you have a divine call, there is a responsibility to respond, right?
Scott Langdon [00:38:27] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:38:27] And Eden recognizes that. This is a very mature, spiritual understanding. Eden felt- I hadn't sought Him out, and that I hadn't fully given myself to Him. And so Eden already understands that to respond to God adequately isn't just to, you know, like the child Samuel or whatever. "Lord, I'm here," you know? You know, answering the call in that basic way. But the proper response to the divine is to give oneself fully to God. And that's understandable. One might not want to do that because you've got many competing goals in life. Right? And this might complicate them or interfere with them. Nevertheless, he or she knows it's God speaking, knows it's God speaking. And then at a low point in life, once again- tried to convince myself that all those times I did experience His presence weren't real.
Scott Langdon [00:39:31] Mm hmm.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:39:31] So again, there's a motive. Let's throw out this experience. Let's not credit it. Even though it was definitely understood to be God and had no doubt about that. Knew it with certainty. But it'd be easier not to believe in God, and they're brought in everything bad happening in the world. So who wants to have to wrestle with that question? There are all these conundrum, much like the science problem. Okay, what are you going to do with science? You know, there are all these objections, you might say, to a belief in God and Eden just didn't want to deal with those. And it's in that mood that Eden asks God- well, prove to me You exist. And then the experience happens that's the most powerful of all. After listening, as listening to a song with his name or her name, part of what struck me here, is there's a kind of spiritual psychoanalysis taking place.
Scott Langdon [00:40:39] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:40:41] Eden is very aware of these conflicting poles, what the emotions are that keep Eden to hold back in spite of all. And that kind of self-awareness is exactly what you need in the spiritual life, is to understand- what it really is going on with me. And I often call that the clarified soul. You need to get detritus and obstacles and distractions out of the way to really pay attention. And we're always saying, "Oh, that's another standard theme is pay attention." You pay attention to the divine nudges to what's going on around you and what the swirls within you are, the conflicting emotions and competing emotions and the kind of contradictions and so forth that need to be recognized and dealt with in some way or other. And Eden then comes back to the simple point- well, prove to me You exist. "Oh, I feel a call to go outside. I'll sit on the grass and just wait. Listen to music. Oh, it's my, my name and the song. Oh, and then a powerful experience." A powerful experience comes to that. What sounds to me like that very open soul. that Eden has, in spite of these conflicts and pulls elsewhere, it's a very open soul and very self-aware.
Scott Langdon [00:42:16] One of the things that's interesting about these two emails, and as we're talking about them both and struggling with gender...
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:42:23] Yes. Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:42:25] Shaquoiah and Eden- male, female, we don't know. I find that I'm having perhaps a divine encounter right now just thinking about those two names, these two emails back to back as they have come to us in our moment right now in this discussion. One of the things that the two names and the gender confusion in our minds does for me is it says, "Scott, drop, drop that. It doesn't matter if it's male or female. The point here is that every one of us has the possibility or not, not just the possibility, but every soul, male, female, every human being has this capacity.".
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:43:09] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:43:10] To have these kinds of questions and ask these questions of God. You know, it's not about whether you're male or your female or subservient or it's every human being. That's what it's saying to me right now. I don't need to know if Eden is a male or female or Shaquoiah’s a... I just know that this person is.. what's behind and deep, deeply beneath even male or female is this connection that as a human being now seems to be a disconnection at times. But we inherently know it's not. No, there is something there and I want to explore it. And having the open mind, as you mentioned, is in my mind, a start and a place to be all the time is with an open mind. I often wonder and ask myself when you ask questions of God, what kind of answer are you looking for?
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:05] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:44:06] I say. Scott, you know, if you ask God, "God, can you prove to me that you exist?" Then I feel like I have to ask myself, "Well, what would the answer look like?" I mean, if God is answering me am I able to look for an answer or am I looking for something specific? If You, if You exist God, then a car will drive by in 2 minutes.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:44:27] Yeah, I've seen those tests.
Scott Langdon [00:44:29] Yeah. You know, that to me is, that to me is what in my biblical education, in the understanding, you know, don't put God to the test and those kind of things. Not just because of God or it's insulting to God, but that's not really fruitful. That's let me have a proof backed by this or that, but rather I'd like to know that you exist. Can you prove that to me or whatever? And then, as Eden does, just being guided to sit down on the grass and go outside, just sort of following that inner polar lead. I throw it out there like a fishing line, God do you exist? And then if the fish catches, then you got to go, okay, I got to guide this fish right now. We're connected. Now, what do I do? I don't want to break the line. I don't want to. You know, we talked about ego and how when you would get caught up in ego, the line would break.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:17] Yes.
Scott Langdon [00:45:17] It seemed, you know, that kind of thing.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:45:20] Yeah. Immediately I put God to the test. This is in God: An Autobiography early on. And my little test, this shows in a way how stupid these things are, well, I was eating at a place that has a buffet. I think maybe it was a breakfast buffet because there are biscuits in a bin over there. And I knew there were biscuits in a bin and I said, "Okay, God, how many biscuits are in that bin?" You got to know all this stuff. And I think the answer comes is like 12. And I go and, no, there are about three. So I go back. Well, sure flunked that test. In a moment, one of the serving people comes out and puts some more biscuits in and I'm told, "Go look again." Well, there are 12. Or 12 on top. And somehow I take the lesson to be- don't put God to the test. This is really rinky dink thinking. But I like the way you were describing it, Scott, because I think it reaches the more common problem, which is people rigidify, have their own narrow notion of what the test would be, what the answer would be, and it's got to be an answer that conforms to their own prior desires for things to be a certain way. And if you're not that, then they don't want to hear. Whereas any truth seeking has to be open ended. You know, we don't know in advance what exactly the answer is going to look like. That's part of what you discover in the process of truth seeking. And let God and I sometimes tell people because of some some say, "Well, I just pray and pray and pray. God never talks to me. And I just pray God talk to me. And why do I why does this agnostic get to hear a voice? And I don't." So they're all irritated about this. And I tell them, "Relax, let God come to you however God comes to you." I always think God spoke to me in a voice because He wanted me to write a book and that would really facilitate that work. God wrote a book with God's story, but that was my assignment. That's not everybody's assignment . And everybody's living these different lives, God may come to them in these different ways that are quite remarkable here. The divine stranger showing up.
Scott Langdon [00:48:00] Yeah.
Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:48:01] And pointing out basically you haven't really opened your heart, have you? You know, and maybe that would be step one. And that was the crucial move for that person. So with Eden's remarkable experience, just taking it in and then having a powerful experience at that point probably was not a voice who needs a voice, but you need one connection or another. And it could be through music or nature, or a divine stranger or an ordinary stranger, just your next door neighbor who says the thing that is a kind of divine message for you. So you take your take in whatever comes. Take in whatever comes.
Scott Langdon [00:49:04] Thank you for listening. To God: An Autobiography, The Podcast. Subscribe for free today wherever you listen to your podcasts and hear a new episode every week. You can hear the complete dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin, by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through its conclusion with Episode 44. You can read the original true story in the book from which this podcast is adapted. God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher, available now at Amazon.com, and always at godanautobiography.com. Pick up your own copy today. If you have any questions about this or any other episode, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and experience the world from God's perspective as it was told to a philosopher. This is Scott Langdon. I'll see you next time.