Dear Dr. Bohlin,
I’m a pastor that is meeting with a young man who is planning to marry a young lady that is a member of our church. This young man, who is in his twenties, said that he believed in God–much like Carl Sagan. He seems to have a postmodern view of truth, but my question is, how can I read up on the spiritual views of Sagan? Do you know any websites or critiques on Sagan? I read your article “Contact: A Eulogy to Carl Sagan“–what would be the best approach to this young man?
It sounds like you have a rather sticky situation on your hands. Believing in God “like Carl Sagan” means little more than a deistic belief in some kind of super intelligence that helped order our universe but has no personal involvement with it or you and me. Sagan had a profound dislike for any thiestic belief, particularly Christianity. His novel Contact brings this out much more strongly than the movie adaptation.
My concern would be that the young man is saying some things to help smooth things out with his bride-to-be, but is potentially hostile to her beliefs. Sagan basically believed Jesus was a good man but not God (page 167-173 of the Pocket edition of the novel Contact. The character of Ellie Arroway is basically Sagan personified, so these seven pages will give some insight into his thinking. It’s about twelve pages into Chapter 10 if you find a different edition). My fear is that he would eventually ridicule or otherwise try to undermine her faith with science and skepticism.
I would ask him if Sagan was a hero of his and do his ideas about God and religion coincide with Sagan’s. If yes, does he hold the same disdain for Christianity and clergy (yourself) as Sagan did? This will perhaps force him to come a little cleaner and bring a little more understanding to the situation. He should be concerned with devaluing the belief system of the person he says he loves. If your intuition is correct about his taking a rather post-modern view, he should be senstitive to this. After all, truth is impossible to know so if it’s true for her great, what’s it to him?
Would he ever come to church with her?
What about children, how should they be raised? As skeptics or in the church?
I agree with your suspicion I sensed from your message. These kids need some hard questions asked of them. What are her thoughts? Does she think she can convert him? This rarely works out, but if this is her intent, is she ready to follow the prescription in 1 Pet. 3:1-2? Most women find this difficult even with a saved husband who has wandered away.
There is a potentially fatal divergence of basic world views which will affect nearly all aspects of their future lives. Maybe they just need to wait a little longer and give each other some time to explore these differences before committing to marriage.
Well, I have said a lot for someone who has little knowledge of the individuals involved.
Hope this helps.
Let me know if I can be of further assistance.