First, let me thank Richard, my dear old friend, for inviting me to contribute to this discussion. I have him to thank for much of my religious training, since he introduced me to evangelical Christianity at the Woodlawn Baptist Church, about a thousand years ago. I still vividly remember the day I approached the front of this church and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart as my personal savior. My subsequent baptism also remains a very powerful memory.
Today, however, I remain a "Christian" only in the sense that I share much of his philosophy. One might as accurately describe me as "Hamiltonian." As an historical figure and philosopher Jesus has a lot to tell us--but I do not worship him.
I come to my understanding of the world through several different churches, twenty years of military service, two marriages, and a graduate social science degree. I daresay that few other contributors here will share my perspective. Moreover, I am skeptical about the exercise generally, since debates about the fundamental tenets of Christianity can all too quickly turn into questions of whether "He said it, I believe it, and that settles it" makes more sense than "you can't prove it." But my old friend asked.
So here is my answer: There is no God who is all knowing and all loving and everywhere. Jesus is not God, and was not sent to save mankind from itself. Jesus lived, and may have been crucified, but he did not rise from the dead. The Bible is not the inerrant word of God. And accepting Jesus' sacrifice will not bring eternal salvation, because there is no such thing.
Of course, as always, I could be wrong. Or Jim Norman could be wrong. Without question, one of us is. God either exists or He does not. Whether humans believe it, or can prove it, or just don't care--there either is or is not a God.
I am looking forward to exploring the questions Richard raises, and reading the thoughtful responses of others. Whatever the true state of affairs with regard to the actual existence of a single creator of the universe, the faith human beings have in whatever they find greater than themselves gives meaning to many lives, and certainly influences human existence in ways good and bad. We may not be able to answer the questions--but we should be thinking about them.