The God of General Revelation

knowing God from general revelation

The Existence of God

Does God exist? I believe that he does. But I cannot conclusively prove that to you. I believe that he exists for two primary reasons. The first is based primarily on my own experience, and secondarily on the experience of others. That there is a God, a God who is interested in me, and who is working in my life, is the best explanation I have for who I am and for what I have experienced. And I am not just an isolated example. I have personally known others, and read about countless others, whose experiences have been similar to my own. I cannot prove to you that God exists, but I believe he has proven his existence to me.

The second primary reason I believe in the existence of God is that it makes more rational sense to me than the alternative. I simply cannot wrap my head around the thought that this universe, including the planet we live on, life itself, and the ability to think rationally are simply the product of blind chance. I know there are some really smart people who seem to have no problem with accepting that; but I just cannot.

I must also confess that my upbringing in a Christian family has had an impact on me. Some would say that I was brainwashed, but I am grateful for that push in the right direction. I may have believed at one time because of my parents, but that time is long past.

Proofs for the Existence of God

If I cannot prove to you that God exists, why would I include a section on proofs for his existence? Well, while I do not believe that a conclusive proof is possible, there have been many attempts over the years to provide logical proofs for God’s existence. Some are convinced that they are effective, but I believe they are really only useful to demonstrate the rationality of belief; a quite different thing than real proof. These proofs include:

Cosmological: There are a variety of cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Each of these is centered on causation or change. Among the most familiar of these is the Kalām argument. This proof takes the form of:

  • Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  • The universe began to exist
  • Therefore, the universe had a cause

If the initial two premises are correct, then the conclusion is also correct. This seems like a good proof, but you will not have to use it very many times before you find those who will disagree with one or both of the initial premises. To me, their reasons for disputing the premises seem far-fetched or flimsy, but to those who do not want to believe, any excuse will work.

Teleological: The teleological argument is also known as the argument from design. Essentially the argument is that the universe, and life, is too finely tuned to have been an accident; there must have been a designer. Today, the intelligent design movement is championing the teleological argument. Like all of the arguments listed here, there are those who dispute that the appearance of design requires a designer. If could, for instance, simply be that there are an infinite number of universes, and this one just won the cosmic jackpot and was able to support life.

Ontological: Of all of the logical proofs presented here, this is to me the most confusing. A variation of this argument goes something like this.

  • God is by definition the greatest being that you can conceive of.
  • But what is greater, that which is only conceived, or that which is actualized?
  • That which is actualized is greater, so a god that actually exists is greater than a god who is only conceptualized.
  • Therefore God is actual.

Confusing; yes. But it does have its proponents.

Miracles: A miracle is defined as an event that is caused by a supernatural entity. So if miracles occur, then there must be a supernatural entity, God, behind them. So if miracles can be demonstrated to occur, or have occurred in the past, then there must be a God. The biggest miracle ever to occur is the creation of the universe, so God does exist.

Morality: Seemingly hardwired into humanity is a sense of right and wrong, and of fairness. There is also a willingness to self-sacrifice, a willingness which seems contrary to a purely naturalistic understanding of life. What is the source of this morality? Is it a trait that evolution has left us with? Is it culturally derived? Or is it a divine moral lawgiver? There are problems with the first two, so it must be the third.

Religion: Throughout time and place wherever modern man has been found there is some trace of religion, an acknowledgement of something greater than ourselves. That is quite the coincidence, unless the creator has built into us a desire to know him.

General Revelation

What can I know about God apart from the Bible? This is generally what is considered to be general revelation, what is revealed about God through some source other than the Bible or other God inspired writings. General revelation can include:

  • Nature: The creation itself bears witness to its creator (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-23).
  • History: Sometimes in historical, or even current, events we can dimly see the hand of God at work.
  • Conscience: Why do we have a conscience? Romans 2:14-15 identifies the conscience as God’s law written on our hearts.

General revelation is available to everyone who lives, or has lived. But for the most part humanity ignores the witness of general revelation and live their lives as if there were no God. General revelation does not tell us anything very specific about the creator and is best understood in light of his more directed revelation of himself in the Bible.

The Nature of God from General Revelation

So just what can a person know about God based on general revelation? There are a number of attributes of God that can be derived just from what we can see in the creation, and others that are likely.

Powerful: In my way of thinking, power is required to produce something. And the bigger and grander the product, the more power is required to produce it. As humans we think of ourselves as pretty powerful, and yet producing something the size of the moon is well beyond our ability to execute. I cannot imagine the amount of power that would be required to produce a universe. Even a universe that unrolls from a singularity would require an amazing amount of power to start it, and keep it unrolling.

I have no idea about what lies beyond the universe we inhabit, nor what limits there might be on a universe creator in that realm. But within the context of the creation, I think it is safe to identify the creator as all-powerful, omnipotent; without equal in power and ability; able to do whatever he chooses.

Intelligent: The more complex and elegant the design, the more intelligence is required to produce it. And can you think of anything that is more complex or elegant than the universe, apart from its creator? Is there anything about the creation that its creator would not know?

Transcendent: A creator would be distinct from his creation, independent of it and not limited by it. Space and time are two limitations that we are very familiar with. Everything in this universe is limited to being in a single location at any one moment in time. And everything that I am aware of experiences the passage of time in a forward only manner, although I am aware that there is some thought that in the quantum world that forward only direction may not be completely applicable. This lack of limitation has some interesting application to a creator.

Not being bound by space means that the creator can be multiple places at any one instance of time, or even in every place within the universe. This means that the creator could be omnipresent, everywhere at once. While in a sense I am able to be multiple adjacent places at once, limited by the size of my body, the creator could be everywhere in his creation, since unlike me, he is not limited by space.

Even more interesting is that the creator would not be bound by time, meaning that he could move both forward and backward in time; be in multiple time periods simultaneously; or even be concurrently present at all points of time. That is admittedly hard to visualize, but if, as scientists claim, time is just another dimension, then it is really little different than being in multiple places at one time.

If the creator is intelligent enough to create our universe, and is able to be everywhere within it, both in space and in time, then he could know everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen. He would be omniscient.

Miracles: A miracle is generally defined as something that has a supernatural origin, an act of a deity. Much of the argument against miracles assumes that there is no creator. But there are those who will argue that even an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator would be unable to produce a miracle. But that does not really make sense, since creation itself is an act of the creator, a miracle. I can find no rational argument for supposing that a creator would be unable to interact with his creation, i.e. perform miracles. He may choose not to perform miracles, but that is different than claiming he would be unable to.

I am able to manipulate the creation in some limited extent to accomplish my own goals. Why could not the creator be able to do the same thing? While I am not able to manipulate the laws of physics to accomplish my goals, is there any reason to suppose that a creator could not? I was a software developer for many years, the creator of little software worlds. Most users of those applications were limited by the user interface in what they could do. But I was able to tweak the underlying data in ways that they could not, allowing me to accomplish things that the average user could not. That is really no different than the creator manipulating the underlying laws and constants that drive our universe to accomplish something that I would be unable to.

Miracles are impossible if there is no creator. But if there is a creator, then miracles should not be a surprise, even miracles that we do not recognize as such; rather they should be expected.

Purposeful: While it is by no means certain to me, it does seem likely that a creator would have a purpose in his creation. In other words, he had a reason for producing a life friendly universe. Other than for the production of some form of life, it is hard to determine what his purpose might have been, assuming all we had to go on was creation itself.

But if he had a purpose in creation, and especially if that purpose included intelligent life, it would seem reasonable to assume that he would be active in his creation, at least enough to make sure his purpose was fulfilled. It would also seem likely that he might want any intelligent life that developed to have some concept of him and his purpose.

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What I Believe . . . God

I believe that God exists, that he is the creator of this universe, and is separate from it. I know of no convincing proof for the existence of God, and do not even believe such a proof is possible since it would negate faith (Heb. 11:6). But I do hold that it is more rational to believe that the universe we inhabit was created than to believe it is the result of random chance.

I believe that God has life and personhood. God is not the cosmic force of Star Wars or the impersonal energizing spirit of the universe as in many of the eastern religions. Rather , God is a person, with life in himself and able to communicate with his creation. In Exod. 3:13-14 Moses asks God for his name and God responds with, “I am.” God has a personal name, a name that indicates he has life in and of himself. And, as a person, he is able to talk with Moses.

I believe that God is not like me in any appreciable way, and would be unknowable to us without his choice to reveal himself. It is common to picture God as like us, only bigger, stronger, and smarter. But I believe this image of God takes away from his mystery and majesty.

I believe that God is infinite. The immensity and complexity of creation indicates to me that God is powerful and intelligent beyond my imagination. The Scripture also bears witness that God is omnipotent (Matt. 19:26), omniscience (Heb. 4:13), and omnipresent both in time (Ps. 90:1-2) and space (Jer. 23:23-24).

I believe that God is love. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.” Love is not some external standard that God is judged against. Rather he is love; he is the standard against which all others should be compared. God’s love is most clearly seen in Jesus sacrifice for us: “this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:10 [NIV]).

I believe that God is good. In response to Jesus being addressed as ‘good teacher’, he responds with, “’why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered, ‘No one is good—except God alone’” (Luke 18:19 [NIV]). God alone is truly good both in the moral sense and in the quality of his personhood. I believe it is totally inappropriate for me to question the rightness of any of God’s actions; he alone is good and I am not capable of judging him.

I believe that God is wrathful. It is easy to fall into the mistake of seeing the God of the Old Testament as being wrathful while the God of the New Testament is loving. Yet they are the same God, and the New Testament itself is filled with references to the wrath of God. Paul, for instance, says that, “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people” (Rom. 1:18 [NIV]). God’s wrath is reserved for those who reject his call and persist in living apart from him.

I believe that God is immanent; he is active within his creation. God is not the god of deism, one who created the universe and then turned his attention elsewhere, or who is incapable of interacting with his creation. Jesus ’ life on earth and the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of believers are both vivid demonstrations of God’s immanence.

I believe that God is triune, one essence with three persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While the Bible does not explicitly teach the doctrine of the trinity, it is implicitly implied throughout the pages of the New Testament. The three persons of the trinity are ontologically equal, although the Son and Holy Spirit are functionally submissive to the Father in the work of redemption. All three are eternal, uncreated, and in perfect harmony.

 

The Attributes of God?

While there are some things that one might derive about God based on what we can see in the creation, most of what we believe about God as Christians come from the Bible. In this post I want to take a quick look at some of the attributes of God that are found in the scriptures. For a more detailed look at these you might check out a systematic theology book like Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology.

  • God is a spirit. He does not have physical form or limitations. He is not limited by physical place or time. John 4:24 most clearly expresses this attribute, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
  • God has personhood. He is not some great cosmic force, but has personality, is self-consciousness and capable of having relationships.  That God is a person, not a human, is at least partially expressed by having a name. In Exodus 3:13-14 Moses asks God for his name and God responds with “I Am”. Only one with self-awareness can identify himself with a name. Repeatedly throughout scripture you also see God interacting with people, often expressing a desire for relationship with people.
  • God has life. His name “I Am” indicates that he is not dependent on anything else for his life, he is self-existent. That is unlike any other life that we know; all of the rest of us are dependent on him for life.
  • God is infinite.
    • In relation to space. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “‘am I only a God nearby’, declares the Lord, ‘and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”
    • In regards to time. Psalm 90:1-2 says, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
    • In relation to knowledge. Hebrews 4:13 says, “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
    • In regards to power. Matthew 19:26 says, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”
  • God is unchanging. In Malachi 1:6 God says, “I the Lord do not change.” And in James 1:17 we are told that God, “does not change like shifting shadows.” God is at least unchanging in his nature and in his plans for his creation. He does not have to change his plans because of anything I might do.
  • God is holy. He is set apart, or distinct, from all of creation. In Leviticus 11:44 God says, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” He is holy, and calls on us to share in that holiness.
  • God is righteous. Psalm 71:19 says, “your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens.” God does what is right and commands us also to do what is right. Repeatedly in the Old Testament his law is praised as being righteous. And in the New Testament, God’s righteousness is given to those who surrender to him.
  • God is truthful. What he says and does is in accordance with truth. 1 Samuel 15:29 says, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” We can count on him to do what is right. And we can depend on what he has told us in his word.
  • God is faithful. He is dependable and keeps his promises to us. In Numbers 23:19 we find, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
  • God is love. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” God is not loving; he is love. Love is sharing of oneself with another, and God does this for us. John 3:16 expresses this with, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • God is gracious. Grace is God’s unmerited favor given to an undeserving people. Ephesians 2:6-7 says, “and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
  • God is merciful. He has compassion on a poor and helpless people. Romans 9:17,speaking about God’s gift of righteousness, says, “it does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
  • God is wrathful. Most of us today don’t like the idea of a wrathful God; it seems so contrary to love, grace and mercy. Yet both testaments have numerous references to God’s wrath. Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”. His wrath is reserved for those who reject his grace and mercy.

Isn’t There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas Is All About?

Charlie Brown is struggling with all of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season when in despair he utters “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  And Linus leaps to the rescue with a recitation of the account of Jesus birth from the gospel of Luke, a part of which is below.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11 KJV

Popular cartoons are not always a good source of theology, but in this case I believe Linus has nailed it.  Christmas is all about the coming of a savior, good tidings of great joy to all people.  The angels announcement, the visit of the shepherds and magi, the manger and stable are all secondary to the savior who was born.  Even the birth of a baby who was the center of all the hoopla is not as important as who that baby was and why he had come.  He was a savior, a deliverer.  He was Christ, God’s anointed one.  And he was the Lord, one with power and authority, God. My favorite passage about the coming of the savior is not in one of the gospel accounts.  Instead it is in Philippians 2:5-11

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and become obedient to death —
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

At Christmas we generally remember Jesus being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man.  But before Jesus was made in human likeness he was in very nature God, having equality with God.  Jesus was fully God before he made himself nothing in becoming a human.  In becoming a human, Jesus did not give up his divinity, but he did become completely human with all the limitations inherent in that.

This baby that we picture in the manger was God.  But he was also a helpless infant totally dependent on his parents to supply his every need.  We think of the cross as a sacrifice.  But is not his incarnation a sacrifice as well?

Jesus as God is the first stop in the story of salvation, while his incarnation is the second.  The third stop in the story told here by Paul is one of death, Jesus becoming obedient to death on a cross.

Jesus, as a man, was obedient to the Father’s plan for his life, a plan that took him to the cross.  The cross is why Jesus was born and everything is his life led up to this.  It is in his death that he became our savior, delivering us from destruction and into a relationship with our creator.

The final stop in this story is Jesus exultation.  Because of his willingness to go to the cross God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.

At the manger the shepherds and magi knelt before him.  At the cross all believers bow before him.  But ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge he is Lord.  Jesus, that helpless infant in the manger, now sits enthroned in the highest place, the firstborn over all creation.

This Christmas, as you celebrate Jesus birth, let me encourage you also to kneel before your Savior and acknowledge him as Lord.  And in your celebration at the manger, don’t forget the cross and the throne.

I Believe! Help My Unbelief! – Mark 9:24

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24 NIV

I believe!  This expression is used in two ways.  Most commonly it is used in the sense of intellectual affirmation or opinion, as in: I believe that the president is good/bad; I believe that guns are evil/necessary; I believe that NCIS is the best show on TV; I believe that God exists; I believe that God loves me.

In contrast to ‘believe that’ is ‘believe in’.  While the first is an intellectual acknowledgement, the second is a statement of trust. When I say that I believe that God exists and loves me, I intellectually accept those statements as true, but that does not mean they have any bearing on my life.  Any more than believing that green leafy vegetables are good for me will cause me to eat them.  But when I say that I believe in God, I am saying that I trust him and will be obedient to him; that he does make a difference in my life.

Lord I believe, I know that you are and you are able to do great things in my life.  But help me with my unbelief, my lack of trust.  Help me to trust in you and to experience the fullness of life in you.

What God Is Like

Everyone has some kind of a picture formed in their minds concerning what God is like.  Even those who do not believe he exists have a mental image that they argue against.  That picture is likely not very well defined, and may not be coherent, but it exists for each of us, and is reflected in how we believe or expect God to act in the world and towards us.  The thing that all of these pictures have in common is that they are all inadequate.  It is not possible for a finite mind to comprehend the infinite God.

As a Christian, most of what I know and believe about God is based on his revelation of himself in the Bible.  And is there really any other way?  If he chooses not to reveal something to me, I can really do no more than guess.  Fortunately he has chosen to reveal some of himself to us, although necessarily in terms that are meaningful to us.  The Bible, inspired by God, tells us, among other things, that God is the creator of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving, good, righteous and holy.

But there is a danger here if we try to picture him as being the way that we understand these words.  One of the most common examples of this I see concerns God being good.  For most people this conjures up the idea of being moral, and that is not necessarily wrong.  But when we do that we too often expect God to act according to our human morality.  But should we?  We can judge a dog as being good without expecting it to conform to human morality, so why should we expect the creator of the universe to conform to our morality?  It is not really logical to expect God to conform to our ideas of morality, or goodness, especially since we ourselves cannot even decide what is moral.

In the Genesis creation accounts we are told that God made man in his own image.  But we seem to have generally turned that around and formed God in our image.  While I have never heard anyone actually say it, in listening to people talk about God it appears like they view God as almost human, just bigger, stronger and smarter.  And God seems to like the same things we like and hate the same things we hate.  Thinking along these lines is essentially constructing a box that we put God into, placing limits on who he is and what he can do.  Again, I have never met anyone who would admit to doing this, but it seems like most of us do it to one extent or another.

I do believe that God is not like me in any significant way.  He is not just a super powerful human like being.  He is the creator and sustainer of a universe that is beyond my comprehension, both at the largest and smallest scales.  I cannot begin to conceive of the power and intelligence it took to pull that off.  He exists outside of time, at least as I know it.  So much of what I am and how I understand the universe around me is centered around time, something that does not apply to him.  When I try to think about existing outside of time I end up just spinning my wheels.

Isaiah 55:8-9 expresses that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways and thoughts higher than my ways and thoughts.  As much as I try and understand why God did something in a certain way, or allows something to occur, it is really beyond my comprehension.  I crave understanding of God, and I believe that is OK.  But I have to satisfy myself with getting no more than a glimmer, knowing that I am not capable of understanding him.

I do believe that he has a purpose in his creation and that he is working out that purpose.  I do not believe that humanity is capable of frustrating his purpose, although we do have a part to play in that purpose; a purpose will not be fully realized until we have left the restraints of this universe behind us.  In other words, I believe that this creation, and our presence in it, is only a temporary step in a much larger plan.

It would appear from the Bible that humanity does not have ‘just a part’ to play in God’s purpose for creation, but has a central part.  It would seem that the primary reason this universe was created was to produce a redeemed church, not just for life here, but for his purpose in eternity.  And if that is true, then God has a special interest in humanity now, caring about us and our development.  We can express that as his love for us, but need to be careful that we don’t try to limit him to love as we know it.

While there is a part of me that wishes I could completely understand God, I am really glad that he is beyond my comprehension.  I am afraid that if I could get my mind around him that it would make him smaller, at least in my mind.  I really like God being mysterious and far above me.  It makes him worthy of worship

So what is he like?  Unimaginable and far above my comprehension.  Not limited in space or time.  A purposeful creator.  Interested in his creation and caring about humanity.  Worthy of my honor and worship.

Even on the Gentiles – Acts 10:44-46

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.  The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.  For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Acts 10:44-46 NIV

I find this passage to be both funny, and sad.  I can not help but laugh at these Jewish believers, and their amazement that God might have a place for Gentiles in his kingdom.  I can just see their mouths fall open and the look of amazement on their faces.  So totally unexpected.  And that is also what I find so sad.  Why didn’t they know?  Why weren’t they expecting this?  It’s not as though though there weren’t enough clues.

What makes it even sadder is that it is a lesson that we still seem not to have learned very well.  Is there anyone that you think is beyond God’s love; anyone you would be amazed to come to know God?  If so, I would venture to guess that it was someone, or some group, that you were at odds with.

It may not be that you know them personally, but only know about them.  How many hard core Republicans would be amazed to see a Democrat come to faith in Christ?  Or how many hard core Democrats would be amazed to see a Republican come to faith?  How many of us have written off pretty much all of our national leaders as being unlovable, even by God?  And surely those terrorists who create so much havoc in the world are doomed and without any possibility of redemption.

And there are those I have know personally, or through chance encounter, that seemed so unlovable, that I could be excused for thinking that God must feel the same way about them that I do.  The homosexual neighbors; the co-worker who is always belittling you and your faith in God; the former friend who has betrayed your trust; the kid with the blue spiked hair, covered in tattoos and piercings, and with pants hanging well below where God intended them to be.

God made clear to Peter and his companions that he would accept anyone who seeks after him; no one is outside God’s concern and love.  But someone needs to tell them.  Will I be willing to drop my prejudice and demonstrate God’s love to them.  Or will I hold back and be a hinderance to their coming to know the Father?

God Has Proven Himself To Me!

Dear Atheist,

I cannot count the number of times you have challenged me to prove to you that God exists.  And I always freely respond that I cannot prove to you that he does.  So you consider me a fool because I accept something as true that I can’t prove to your satisfaction.  But that I cannot prove it to you does not mean that I cannot prove it to myself.  And that I can do.

I was born into a Christian family and was a regular attender at the family church.  However, as I neared graduation from high school and induction into the US Navy, I recognized the emptiness of my ‘Christian’ experience and was prepared to abandon it when I left home.  And it is quite likely that you can relate to this, since that seems to be a fairly common story.  But during that last summer I was ambushed and captured.

I spent about half of that summer washing dishes at a Christian camp.  During that time I discovered that not everyone’s experience with God was the same as mine.  There were some there who had a spirit about them that was very appealing to me; I wanted what they had.  What I discovered was that they had a personal relationship with God, unlike others, myself included, for whom God was simply an intellectual construct.

By the time that summer was over I had joined those who had a personal relationship with their creator, and discovered that it was a transformational experience.  My plans for the future were upended, not because I felt like I had to, but because the desire was gone.  And my language, which could be pretty vulgar, was also transformed, even in boot camp, and with no effort on my own part.  It just happened.

Now, is that scientific proof for the existence of God?  No, it is not.  But is there a more logical way to explain a change from R rated desires and language to G rated versions of both.  And especially for an 18 year old male, fairly susceptible to peer pressure, going through Navy boot camp.  I cannot tell you how many times I have looked back at that experience when questions arose about the reality of God.

And I could describe other experiences in the following 40+ years that continue to add proof to my conviction that God not only exists, but that he cares about me and has a purpose for my life.  Today I continue to enjoy spending time with my creator and getting to know him better.  And this has not been my experience only; many others that I have known over the years have had similar experiences.

Does God exist?  Without doubt!  And regardless what you may say about Him, I know the truth.  God is real.  He has chosen to inhabit this fragile clay jar.  And what better proof could I ask for that his confirming presence in my life?

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.

Does God Exist?

I think the initial question in the debate concerning religion is about the existence of God.  Why should a person believe that there even is a God?  Obviously, if there is not a God, then worshipping him is a pretty limited exercise, at most providing some social stability.  I have engaged a number of people in the debate concerning the existence of God over the past few years, although I have yet to find the magic approach that will be convincing to most people; nor am I at all certain that such an argument even exists.

In fact, I am fairly convinced that it is not possible to really prove the existence of God.  As appealing as it might be sometimes to have that compelling proof, what would such a proof do to faith?  It seems like proof would eliminate the need for faith.  But Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  That would indicate to me that God has stacked the deck against those who would seek to develop a way to prove that he exists; because proof would eliminate the need for faith and thus make it impossible to please God.

So why should we bother to develop and offer proofs for the existence of God.  In my opinion, a good proof for the existence of God can demonstrate that it is at least rational to believe in God, unlike believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or in the tooth fairy.  You do not need to check your brains at the door when you come to faith in God.  There are quite a few ‘proofs’ that have been developed over the years, some better than others.  Before looking at these, I think it would be instructive to take a look at the basic structure of a proof.

Logic Argument

A logical argument is one in which a set of premises (a statement assumed, or believed, to be true) are defined and then a conclusion is drawn from the premises.  For example:

  • All fathers are male (premise 1)
  • I am a father (premise 2)
  • Therefore, I am a male (conclusion)

So long as the premises are true and logically lead to the conclusion, then the conclusion should be valid.    There are two basic types of logical argument that can be made.  The first, and most reliable, is the deductive argument.  This argument uses general premises to arrive at a specific conclusion, like the example above.  In a deductive argument, if the premises are true, and complete, then the conclusion can be considered to be valid.

Inductive arguments, on the other hand, start with specific premises and try to reach a general conclusion.  For instance:

  • All of the crows I have seen are black (premise)
  • Therefore, all crows are black (conclusion)

In this case, the conclusion may be true, but there is no guarantee of it; the conclusion is not required by the premise.

Arguments

There are many logical arguments for the existence of God, and some that I find to be compelling, while others are less so.  But of course I am already a believer in God, and so it is perhaps natural that I would find some of these arguments convincing.  But I have seen atheists, who appear otherwise logical, who were un-swayed by these same arguments.  While it is certainly possible that the atheist just refuses to allow himself to be convinced, it is also possible that the arguments require a certain amount of predisposition towards believing in God ahead of time in order to actually be effective.

The Design Argument

  • The universe displays a tremendous amount of intelligibility, both internal to objects and in the way those things interact with each other.
  • This intelligible order is either the product of chance or of intelligent design
  • Not of chance
  • Therefore the universe is a product of intelligent design
  • Design comes from a mind, a designer
  • Therefore the universe is the product of an intelligent designer.

The Moral Argument

  • Real moral obligation is a fact.  We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil
  • Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one
  • But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation
  • Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct



The Cosmological or Kalam Argument

  • Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence
  • The universe began to exist
  • Therefore, the universe has a cause for it’s coming into being.

The Argument from Contingency

  • If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist
  • The universe – the collection of beings in space and time – exists
  • Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist
  • What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time
  • Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time

The Argument from Miracles

  • A miracle is an event whose only explanation is the non-natural, or God
  • There are numerous well attested miracles
  • Therefore, there are numerous events whose only explanation is the direct intervention of God
  • Therefore, God exists

The Ontological Argument

  • It is greater for a thing to exist in the mind and in reality than in the mind alone
  • “God” means “that than which a greater cannot be thought”
  • Suppose that God exists in the mind but not in reality
  • Then a greater than God could be thought (namely a being with all of the attributes of that God plus real existence)
  • But this is impossible, for God is “that than which a greater cannot be thought”
  • Therefore, God exists in the mind and in reality.

The Argument from Desire

  • Every natural, innate desire in us corresponds to some real object that can satisfy that desire.
  • But there exists in us a desire which nothing in time, nothing on earth, no creature can satisfy
  • Therefore there must exist something more than time, earth, and creatures, which can satisfy this desire
  • This something is what people call “God” and “life with God forever”

Giesler
Norman Giesler’s argument deals with ’cause’, but it is different than many.  He is not arguing for a cause in time past like the Cosmological Argument.  Rather he is arguing for current cause, similar to Contingency.  The light being on by my chair was caused in the first case by me turning on the switch, and in the second by the electricity that is flowing through the bulbs filament.  Giesler argues that just like the glow from the lamp is caused by electricity, so my continuing existence is caused by something.

  • Some things undeniably exist
  • My nonexistence is possible
  • Whatever has the possibility not to exist is currently caused to exist by another
  • There cannot be an infinite regress of current causes for existence
  • Therefore, a first uncaused cause of my current existence exists
  • The uncaused cause must be infinite, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-perfect
  • This uniquely perfect Being is appropriately called “God”.
  • Therefore, God exists
  • This God who exists is identical to the God described in the Christian scriptures
  • Therefore, the God described in the Bible exists

The Church

I believe that if we, as the church, the body of Christ, were to love God with all that we are, and were to love those around us, that there would be no need of logical proofs for the existence of God.  People would see God in us and be attracted to him.  Unfortunately, all too often the world sees little difference between us and them.  A transformed people provide powerful evidence of the existence of God.  People claiming to be reborn, who are no different than the once born, apart from where they spend Sunday morning, are really an argument against a God, especially as described in the New Testament.

Conclusion

In the end, I think that believing in God is a choice that each person makes for themselves.  That choice may be made with little, if any thought.  Or it may be made after much thought and consideration.  To believe in God, just because someone else does, or even your culture as a whole does, is, IMO, not a very good reason.  I do believe that there are valid reasons to believe in the existence of God.  But whether those reasons are compelling is something that each person will need to evaluate for themselves.

So why do I believe there is a God?  I have believed there was a God for as long as I can remember.  Initially it was because of the home I grew up in.  But ultimately, it is because of my own experience with what I understand to be his workings in my own life.  It is possible that I have misunderstood my experiences, but it seems more logical to me, in light of the writings in the Bible and the experience of others I know and have read about, to believe that it is indeed the actions of God, wanting me to know him and to prepare me for something beyond this life.

References

Handbook of Christian Apologetics – Kreeft & Tacelli
Reasonable Faith – Craig
Christian Apologetics – Geisler

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