Why Do I Believe In God?

Why am I a Christian? There is no one forcing me to believe in God or to be a Christian. While I grew up in a Christian home, my parents are long dead. I do not have to worry about hurting or offending them. Being a Christian does not grant to me any special privilege at work or in society. Nor has it given me a nicer home or bigger bank account. Being a Christian puts me at odds with the secular culture that surrounds me. I am exposed to arguments against the reality of God, the reliability of the Bible and the sanity of Christianity. And I have to admit that while some of these arguments are foolish, others are reasonable and well thought out. Arguments that I sometimes have no answer for. I am an engineer by trade and have made my living by thinking and reasoning. I enjoy the study of modern science and have no issue with any of its findings. So how come I still hold on to a supposedly outdated concept like Christianity and its God, who also supposedly loves me.

I believe in God by faith. I know that there is no way to scientifically prove that God exists or that he cares for me. I do so by choice. I have chosen to accept the offer that God extends to all men to enter into a relationship with him. I originally chose this relationship from a desire to have what I saw in others. I choose to continue in this relationship because I have found it to be good. He has become very real to me. I encounter him frequently in times of prayer and meditation as well as in Bible study. And I see him working in the lives of people around me. None of the reasons that I can give would likely convince someone who was demanding scientific proof. But together, they have proven convincing to me.

Believing in God provides me with a sense of purpose. I know that ultimately I am not alone. I know that God has created me for a purpose, both in this life and in the eternity to follow. I do not claim to know what that purpose in eternity is, but it does give me assurance. I am not just an insignificant life tucked away in a remote corner of the universe. Rather I am a part of the purpose of Him who created all that we see around us. That purpose affects how I live my life now. I live to serve my Lord and God, attempting to please him, living in obedience to his word.

I am a Christian because of the Bible. I have found that this book, written by simple men two to three thousand years ago, speaks to my heart and mind. It describes my own actions and feelings and struggles as well as providing an explanation for much of what happens in the world around me. It provides me with direction for living my life. I have found that when I follow its direction that I have peace of mind. When I choose not to follow it, that peace is missing. The Bible describes God in a way that I find to be rational and true to my limited experience. I can not make the claim that other ‘holy’ writings do not also do this since I have not read most of them. But the Bible has convinced me that it is inspired. And the God that it proclaims is the God that I have given my life to.

While I have chosen to believe in God, and do so by faith rather than because of any empirical evidence, I do believe that this belief is rational and reasonable. To me, at least, it makes sense. I have found that my belief in God compliments and enhances my belief in science and its findings. I do not find them in conflict at all. Rather every finding that helps me to understand the creation and its workings better, gives me a greater appreciation for my creator. I am thankful to the scientists, whether Christian, atheist or somewhere in between, who help me to know God better.

In summary, I have found Christianity to be a good life. And it is a life that I would wish for all of you.

Christianity and Science: Enemies or Allies?

One of the biggest hot button topics that you are likely to find in discussions between skeptics and believers concerns the relationship between science and Christianity.  To many, these are on opposite sides of the boxing ring, mortal enemies with no room for co-existence.  But I do not believe that needs to be the case.  I believe that the two can exist in harmony and can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of God and his creation.  But to do so, it is important to distinguish between science, “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena”, and scientism, “the collection of attitudes and practices considered typical of scientists”.  Scientism is really a type of philosophy that is oftentimes at odds with faith and Christianity.  But science is a tool that can help us to understand the creation better, and thus to understand our creator better.

The challenge that we often face is when a claim of science is at odds with one of our beliefs, beliefs that we find support for in the Bible.  Past examples of this conflict includes the shape of the earth, flat verses spherical, and the centrality of the earth to the universe.  At one time it was thought that the earth was flat, and that the sun, as well as the rest of the universe, revolved around the earth.  And the church looked to the Bible to support these beliefs.  It took some time for the church to accept that the earth was actually spherical and, later, that the earth revolved around the sun, and was actually a rather insignificant piece of the universe.

Today, there are two other controversial subjects that seem to define the divide between science and Christianity; the Theory of Evolution and the Big Bang theory.

The Big Bang

This name is somewhat misleading because it would lead one to believe it was a noisy explosive event.  What this theory does is provide an explanation, based on the best physical evidence available, for the early moments of the life of the universe; a universe that began as an infinitely small, infinitely dense and extremely hot point, a singularity, that began to rapidly expand, and has continued expanding up to the present moment.

The Big Bang theory itself makes no attempt to explain how this singularity came to be or how the expansion was triggered; although many scientists have offered explanations that remove the need for a creator (remember the definition of scientism?).

Probably the biggest sticking point for many Christians here has to do with the time frame.  The Big Bang posits a universe that is about 13.9 billion years old with an earth that is 4.5 billion years old, as opposed to the 6-10,000 year old estimate that comes from the Old Testament genealogies.  Genesis 1:1 says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”.  Other than ‘and God said’, there is no indication in Genesis as to just how God accomplished this feat.  The Big Bang theory does provide a possible scenario.

Evolution

The Theory of Evolution provides an explanation for how life, once it started, diversified across the face of the earth.  Many people try and place the origin of life as a part of this theory, but do so incorrectly.  The Theory of Evolution assumes life had already started.  The data for this theory comes from many sources including: similarities between species, observation of evolution in action, the fossil record and genetics.  The Theory of Evolution is a challenge to Christians because it seems to take the creation of the different species of life present today, especially humanity, out of the hands of the creator, placing it into the blind hands of an evolutionary process.  But, who is the creator of that supposedly blind process?

The other issue that many Christians have with evolution is best exemplified by a statement from Richard Dawkins, a militant atheist scientist: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”.  But that is just scientism rearing its ugly head again.  The Theory of Evolution, like the Big Bang, only describes a mechanism, not the source of the mechanism.

Conclusion

In my opinion, science is not a threat to Christianity or to our faith.  Seeking to better understand the creation, and how it works, actually increases my awe of the creator.  This universe, and the life it contains, is truly marvelous, regardless of just how God went about making it the way it is.

Regardless your stand on the Big Bang theory and the Theory of Evolution, you should recognize that these are not central to our faith and should not be issues that divide believers, or cause believers to fight with non-believers.  It is unfortunate that the focus of our debate so often is side tracked by these issues and never gets to the important issues, like faith in God and his purpose for us.

Why the Christian God?

While there is no foolproof physical or logical proof that can be given for the existence of a supernatural deity, there are sufficient grounds for a rational acceptance of a creator.  But that is still a big step away from accepting the God of Christianity, of Islam, of Hinduism, or of any of the other thousands of religions that have existed throughout history.  How, as a Christian, can I rationally claim that only Christianity can lead to knowledge of God, and that all other religions are dead ends?

Cultural
The most common method of choosing a God is to choose, or adopt, the God that you grew up around.  This has the advantage of being easy, requiring little if any effort or thought.  Nearly every cultural group has their own concept of God and indoctrination into that concept happens early in life.  Included with that indoctrination is the belief that they have found the correct path to God, and all others are mistaken.  Yet, how valid is that approach?  Pretty much all religions make that claim, and they can’t all be correct in their assessment.  It would seem, since at most one of these religions, that teach the correct way to God, can be correct, that the odds of being born into the correct one would be pretty slim and this method of choosing the correct God would have a pretty high failure rate.

Comparing Attributes
Another way to know would be to make a comparison of the attributes of a logically derived creator of the universe with the attributes of the God of the Bible.  But even if these attributes line up, it at most will serve to not eliminate the Christian God.  There may be more than one logical set of attributes for a creator God, and there may be more than one religion that successfully maps to one of these attributes sets.  Also, it is generally beyond most people to logically derive the attributes of a creator God and to compare that attribute set with every religion that has ever existed.

Holy Writings
A third way to determine the correct God would be to compare the holy writings of a religion with the way the world is observed to be.  If these writings provide a valid explanation for the condition of the world, including the interaction of the creator and his creation, then the likelihood of this God being the correct one is greater than if that explanation does not bear any resemblance to reality.

So what explanation does the Bible offer for the condition of our world today and for God’s activity in it?  The Bible claims that God spoke the whole universe into existence and that he did so for a purpose; the purpose of producing ‘sons of God’.  The Bible claims that the general movement of people is away from God and toward satisfaction of self interest.  The Bible also claims that God is seeking people who will turn away from their own self interest and serve him via faith rather than through ritual.  The Bible also claims that all who come to God in faith will become new creatures and that he will take up his abode within them.

The creation accounts in Genesis are frequently used to discredit the God of the Bible because of the time frames used and the order of events.  But the most significant aspect of these accounts, and what sets them apart from other creation myths, is that God speaks into existence the universe and all that is in it, rather than forming it out something that already existed.  Hebrews 11:3 confirms this for the New Testament; that at God’s command the universe was formed out of what did not previously exist.  And the general consensus of the scientific community supports this, that what we see around us is not just a general reordering of something that has been in existence forever.  At the very least, there has been a dramatic reconstruction of the elements of the universe, and one that allows for no glimpse of what may have previously existed.

The thought that people will, in general, move away from God seems at first a little strange, since so much of the world seems somehow to claim to know him.  But if there is a God who created us with a purpose, it is hard to imagine that that purpose was for us just to enjoy life in the here and now, and/or, to worship God as creator.  It seems much preferable, at least to me, to picture God’s purpose as reaching beyond this short life and into eternity.  If that is the case, then when I focus on this short life, and what I can get out of it, then I am ignoring God’s greater purpose in creation.  And it is easy to see that most people, including the religious, very much live their lives as though this was all there is.  The Bible talks about sin and claims that all sin, that all have fallen short of God’s purpose.  We generally think of sin as doing something bad.  But sin is simply falling short of God’s purpose for us.  And that is something that we all do.

The Holy Spirit
I am aware of only a single religion today that teaches that God lives within the life of those who have committed themselves to him.  This unique teaching of Christianity, should it be possible to verify, would offer a much higher level of proof for the God of Christianity than anything else mentioned.  But the challenge here is to provide proof that the Holy Spirit, the indwelling presence of God, does indeed exist and is a part of the life of those God has chosen.  Because God is not detectable using our most sensitive scientific instruments, there is no way to conduct an experiment to determine his presence.  Instead we need to use other methods to evaluate the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In proving the presence of the Holy Spirit, first of all it must be pointed out that the whole concept of the Holy Spirit will appear as foolishness to the person who does not already have his presence within.  The unbeliever may be able to detect a difference in the life of the believer, but the cause of that difference will remain a mystery.  Apart from the Holy Spirit’s help, the presence of the spiritual, or supernatural, realm will be nothing more than a silly concept.  The Holy Spirit opens up a new sense within the believer that allows them to experience the spiritual.  Just like a blind man cannot understand red, or the person with no sense of taste understand sweet, so the man without the Holy Spirit cannot understand the spiritual.

Christianity has become quite a diverse umbrella of various beliefs and practices.  But according to Romans 10:9-10 only those who confess Jesus as Lord and believe in his resurrection will be saved.  And according to Matthew 7:21, many will claim him to be Lord that he will disown, because they did not do the will of God.  The experience of the indwelling presence of God is limited to those who have confessed Jesus as Lord, believe in his resurrection and do the will of God.  To others, the ability to understand the spiritual is the same as it is for the unbeliever; it is a foreign concept.  They may accept that there is such a thing, but there is no evidence of it in their lives.

But for the one who has confessed the Lordship of Jesus and lives in obedience to God, the indwelling presence of God is a reality.  To the believer, this is evident in the ability to communicate with God and to know his response, not generally with audible words, but within the awakened spiritual component of our lives.  The one without the Holy Spirit labels this as foolishness or imagination; but to the one who experiences it, there is no doubt about the reality of it, or its source.  But there is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of the believers that should be evident to others around them.  Galatians 5:22-23 identifies the fruit of the Spirit, or the result of his presence within as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  While these attributes are certainly found in unbelievers, they should always be found, in increasing measure, in the lives of those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

There is little proof that can be offered to the skeptic that Christianity alone, among all religions in existence today, or in the past, is the only way to God.  I do believe it paints a logical and rational picture of a purposeful creator and that its writings do explain the condition of the world today.  But the best that can really do is to not eliminate Christianity as a valid pointer to God.  It is really only in the claimed presence of God within the lives of those who are his that we can have any assurance that we are on the right path.  While that offers little in the way of proof to the skeptic, it does offer assurance to the believer that they do indeed have a relationship with God and are on the correct path.

Why God?

I am encountering more and more folks who have rejected, not only God, but even the possibility that there might be something that is beyond what their senses can experience.  I have talked with a number of these atheists, mostly online, over the past 8 years or so, have listened to their explanations, have tried to understand their reasoning, and evaluated my own beliefs.  But to no avail.

Atheism remains to me a hollow and deceptive philosophy that glorifies mankind and our achievements;  that has no purpose for life other than what the individual chooses to give themselves; and has no hope beyond this life.  This is not to say that all atheists are raving madmen seeking to overthrow all that is good.  In reality, most of the atheists I have encountered are every bit as ‘moral’ as most ‘Christians’.  You would not generally be able to tell them apart if they did not tell you that they had rejected the idea of God.

But this is not really a condemnation of atheism as it is an explanation of why I find it lacking and continue to believe in God, in spite of the best efforts of many atheists, some very reasonable and patient, and a few quite belligerent and hateful.

While there are many reasons I might give for my position, the two that are most significant to me are reasonableness and experience.  The universe just makes more sense to me with there being a creator, and my life makes more sense with it having a purpose and hope beyond what I choose to assign to it.  I realize that just because it makes sense to me does not make it right.  And I realize that others appear to be just as comfortable on the other side of the debate.  But that doesn’t change the fact that no matter how hard I look at it, God just makes more sense to me than the no God option.

More important to me is my own experience with God; at least I am convinced that that is what it is.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I have not been ‘in church’.  My parents lugged me off to Sunday school, Training Union, worship services, VBS and everything else that the church offered for whatever age I happened to be.  As a nine year old I was even baptized and joined the church, becoming a ‘Christian’.

But it was not until I was a young man that all of that became more to me than simply a ritual that was performed in a certain way at a certain time.  It was then, as an 18 year old high school graduate, that I actually encountered God and came away from the encounter changed, with a commitment to God, and a desire to know him better.

While I cannot prove to you that God exists, any more than my atheist acquaintances can prove his non-existence, I am convinced that he does.  For me to reject the existence, and presence, of God would be intellectually dishonest; I would have to lie to myself, and I don’t think I could live with that.  No matter how I tackle the subject I always come back to the conclusion that there is a creator, who has a purpose for his creation, and that purpose includes me.

I will readily acknowledge that there is much evil in the world we live in.  And that much of that evil is perpetuated in the name of religion; although one need not look to far to find examples of atheists doing the same thing.  But I am not trying to defend religion here, which is all to often a substitute for a personal relationship with our creator.  Religion can be useful if it leads you into a personal understanding and walk with God.  But all to often the structure, dogma and practice of a religion, is the end of the journey rather than a guide to a life with God.

My religious experience has indeed shaped how I view my experience with God.  But I try very hard to keep the former from becoming a substitute for the latter.  I am totally convinced of God’s reality and presence.  And my hearts desire is to know him and to be what he created me to be.

Two Went To Pray – Luke 18:9-14

Nearly every town of any size has one; First Baptist Church of AnyTown USA.  And some of these churches have prayer chapels that are open during the day, inviting all who feel the need to come and pray.

Into one of these prayer chapels one day came two people.  The first was a successful business man and deacon who was traveling on business from a distant city.  And the second was a streetwalker who was just finishing up after a long and degrading night.

The deacon knelt at the altar and prayed to God, as was his custom when traveling.  “God, I am so thankful that I am one of your chosen, a pillar in the church and community, faithful to my wife, supporting world missions efforts, opposed to any efforts to further secularize our society.  I thank you that I am not like so many other people: politicians, lawyers, drug dealers, abortion doctors, or involved in the sex trade, like that woman over there.

But the streetwalker fell on her face in a back corner and softly cried out. “Oh God, please forgive me.  I have made such a mess of my life and have no future or hope.  Please have mercy on me and help me to find a way out of this life.

It is this woman who left the chapel that day justified, with God’s hand on her life.  The man left, filled with pride and self-justified, but without even being heard by God.  For only those who who will humble themselves before God will be heard and lifted up by him.  Those who exalt themselves before God will be ignored.

Based on Jesus parable in Luke 18:9-14.

Rational Christianity

Is Christianity rational?  I have debated this point with lots of folks over the past few years.  And there is a wide divergence of opinion as to whether it is or not.  The dictionary defines rational as “agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible”.  It also defines reason as “to think or argue in a logical manner.  to form conclusions, judgments or inferences from facts or premises.”  Christianity is rational if it is based on facts, makes sense, and is coherent.

So is Christianity rational?  I believe that it is.  That it is based on reality, it is internally coherent and that it is a superior world view to any other.  Some of you reading this will agree with my assessment.  And others are laughing at what they view as the absurdity of the claim.

For those of you on either side of the debate, as well as those who are searching for an answer to this question, I would like to invite you to join with me in discussing this question, and related ones, on Rational Christianity.  Rational Christianity is a discussion forum that is open to anything related to Christianity.  This is actually a second start for the forum.  Some of the original content has been retained, but it is mostly a fresh start.

You will have to join the group to be able to participate, although you can freely read anything posted without joining.  Feel free to start new topics or participate in existing topics.  Ask questions, make supportable claims, challenge a position, or defend a position.  Or just read and learn.

Any viewpoint is welcome, whether it comes from a Christian background, atheist or something else all together.  The only requirement is that you be respectful in your presentation and not vulgar.  Posts that are insulting, use profanity or not related to the debate will be removed.  The intent of this is to keep the debate on topic and non-threatening to all who choose to participate.

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