Raymond and I were without a tool. We had been sent out with a portable dvd player, with the intent of approaching students, offering to show them an 8 minute film, and discussing it afterward. But our dvd player was out of battery. What do we do now, we asked?
I proposed that we come up with a simple survey and ask a few questions, the questions that are most on my mind when I talk with French students anyway: Do you believe in God? What is your religious/spiritual background? And what do you think it means to be a Christian?
We approached a group of four students and explained that we were part of a Christian student group and would like to hear their thoughts on God and faith. They were open, so we sat down on the grass with them. One promptly offered us a cigarette (: I was able to ask them all three questions, and we had a really good conversation for over an hour! When asked if they believe in God their response was typical, "I don't believe in God, I'm Cartesian." This is referring to the French mathematician and philosopher, Descartes, inventor of the classic Cartesian system.
Usually they don't actually follow Cartesian philosophy, where Descartes deconstructed logic down to - I think, therefore I am. By saying they are Cartesian they mean that they're logical and scientific in their thinking, therefore they don't believe in God.
"I believe in man," two of them said. I confronted this, asking them how that's working out for them, and whether they're optimistic that we'll ever arrive at perfection. They had to admit they weren't. Building off this idea of perfection I asked where our notion of perfection came from. Everyone has a conscience, and not one can live up to it. Where did our conscience come from? Their answer was very abstract, something about feelings. I couldn't help but grin as I pointed out they weren't being very Cartesian! Then I pushed the Cartesian envelope further, talking through the logic that follows Christ's claims to be God. He had to be either crazy, lying, or really God. They really didn't want to accept any of those logical conclusions, and asked whether he couldn't be some combination of great teacher and crazy and a liar - Oh, if only they really were Cartesian and not post-modern!
At this point one of them said that he'd been thinking he should read his bible, just to know what's there (see the evidence that God was already working in their lives?). I challenged him to remember that most of those who wrote the New Testament were eye witnesses of Christ, walking with him, seeing him die on the cross, and then rise again. And all of his disciples, except John, died horrible martyr deaths because they held to their story. That should give reading what they wrote more weight. He admitted that now he feels obligated to look into it. When we offered them a Knowing God Personally booklet they were genuinely thankful for it! Please pray especially for Fabian and Marion, that God would convict them of their sin and draw them to him with his amazing love.
I'm Cartesian- it's ironic that one of the other French students pointed out that Descartes believed in God!