If you are familiar with the name Richard Dawkins, the confessed atheist, then you may have heard about his book “The God Delusion”
Is Dawkins right? Are those of us who believe in God deluded? God’s word clearly says we should be always ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. This does not mean we will be able to give an answer to satisfy the mind and heart of people who choose not to believe, remembering God’s word also says “anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him” (Hebrews 11 v 6 New Living Translation). In trying to make some meaningful contribution to help you think about these issues here are 3 brief thoughts to guide your thinking.
A number of years ago a well-known television comedian used the ‘catchphrase’ “may your god go with you”. This statement implies (a) there is more than one ‘god’ and (b) he cannot be defined. Christian believers say he is wrong to imply there is more than one god but that he is almost right to say He cannot be defined. As we look back on the history of mankind, men have always had some form of belief in a god, for example, the most ancient people we know about seem to have worshiped the sun and other heavenly bodies; the ancient Egyptians and Greeks had many gods and believed in their influence in the affairs of men; the Romans also made room for many gods and even deified some people such as their emperors, a line from a well-known poem about an incident in Roman history says “ Tiber father Tiber to whom the Romans pray..”
In these few examples we see how from as far back as we can trace the history of men, they have always recognised a ‘god’ existed in some form even though their understanding was lacking. This is basically what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1 verses 21-23
“..they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship Him as God or even give Him thanks and they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like, the result was that their minds became dark and confused claiming to be wise they became utter fools instead and instead of worshiping the glorious ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds or animals and snakes”
As Christians our belief in God comes through His revelation of Himself. Perhaps some of the most significant verses in God’s word are also found in Romans 1 verses 19-20
“.. the truth about God is known to them instinctively, God has put this knowledge in their hearts, from the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature, so they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God”
This tells me people have a natural instinct about God (because God created people in His image – that is, the capacity to know Him), but people may choose to ignore it or even deny it. A story has been told of a Christian missionary who went to take the message of the gospel to unreached tribes in a remote part of the world. These dear people lived very simply, they had never seen a watch – an item we take very much for granted – nor had they heard about the commandments and their teaching about jealousy, coveting and stealing. However one day as the missionary was washing he removed his watch and set it on a table behind him, when he turned to pick it up, one of the native people who had been holding the watch and looking at it instinctively hid it behind his back. The Bible reminds us that since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have had an instinctive knowledge of right and wrong.
A Dictionary definition of the word ‘logic’ is “a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something” People are able to make cars, watches, aeroplanes, spaceships, computers and there are many other items we touch, use or wear which have been made – we wouldn’t expect to throw together a few pieces of metal, rubber etc. and expect to find a car would simply ‘appear’ – of course not, it’s not logical, we know it takes intelligent design, a manufacturing process to make all the various components and an assembly process to produce the finished product, whether a car or any other ‘man made’ product.
In light of this, you can see why believing God is The Creator is a proper and reasonable way of thinking about or understanding the universe and the world in which we live. The human body is made up of materials you could buy in any hardware shop but just as in the example above of man-made products, you could not put these materials together and expect them to produce an emotional, thinking, human being – even for those who will not accept the scripture record about God’s creation — it’s just not logical that matter should come together or that a ‘big bang’ could have the effect of producing living, intelligent, thinking, emotional human beings without an ‘intelligent creation’ a divine creation as the Bible records in Psalm 139 “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” — it is a divine act of creation and is also entirely logical.
We can see man has acknowledged a ‘god’ historically and that it is logically a proper and reasonable way of thinking and understanding. The best way to know God is personally – what does this mean? Ancient history has recorded some of the ways in which people saw and felt the ‘influence’ of the ‘gods’. The Bible tells us about how God revealed himself in His creation but He has always been a ‘personal’ God and we know that, because the book of Genesis tells us God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, this speaks about fellowship and that is what God desires to have with people. Our reading of the Bible leads us to see that even after Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden that God continued to speak to people.
The most significant personal revelation of God came in the Lord Jesus, God coming in the form of a man. Over the centuries of time God has continued to make Himself personally known to people – sometimes through what we call ‘miracles’ either of healing a sick body or perhaps in a deliverance from a specific situation of danger and the latter experience has often been shared by missionaries.
Christians believe God has sovereignty over life yet we are not animated robots, He allows us freedom of choice, no one is ‘forced’ into believing. Christians find in God meaning, purpose and direction for life (it is not that Christians are ‘superhuman’ or are incapable of making mistakes or have a monopoly of ‘good living’) but everything has its purpose in helping us to get to know the God who wants to know us. Why can that be so? Genesis 2 v 7 “God breathed into man the breath of life and he became a living soul”
Soul speaks about the ‘whole’ of a person’s being, mind, thinking (often called ‘the heart’) and will. Simply, you can choose to yield your soul to God and be in fellowship with Him or keep it to yourself and live as you please.
Are there not many questions and matters we may find difficult to understand? – yes. Our minds – wonderful as they are with such potential — cannot fully comprehend God. Honestly, look around you, look within you – and you can find God in a personal way. The emphasis in Hebrews 11 v 6 which was quoted in the introduction — “anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him” is in the context that ‘rewards’ means God will ‘respond’ to those who want to know Him. This does not mean a great lightning bolt will streak across the sky, or that a voice will boom from heaven, but God says if you seek Him you will find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart. God speaks through His creation He speaks through His witnesses (Christians) through His Word the Bible and through the circumstances of life.
Amongst the reasons some people will not acknowledge God is that it challenges our self-righteousness – the idea that we are good enough; it challenges our self-sufficiency — the idea we can get along without God; it challenges our self-control – the idea we can live as we please without being accountable to God. When writing his account of the Apostle Pauls missionary journeys, Luke, who wrote what we call the book of Acts, tells us about Pauls visit to Athens where he saw an altar to the ‘AGNOSTOS’ the ‘unknown god’. Luke tells us Paul explained this ‘unknown god’ to these people telling them that in Him (God) we live and move and have our being, this means everyone, whether or not they acknowledge God, benefits from God’s common grace – His goodness to everyone and God’s goodness is designed to lead people to repentance. The difference for the Christian is that we acknowledge the need for God’s saving grace – that is we are not good enough and trust in the righteousness of Christ alone.
An accusation often levelled is that the Bible is not true. The greatest testimony to knowing God personally is the changed life. One of the most important testimonies ever made is contained in the 2nd letter of Peter. Peter knew Jesus personally, he walked with Jesus, was rebuked by Jesus, Peter even betrayed Jesus. In his 2nd letter Peter says “for we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and His coming again”. When you look at the evidence, it is clear to see that Peter, nor any of the men who knew Jesus had anything to gain from making up clever stories about Jesus. It most certainly did not make them rich or famous so far as the world was concerned nor did it give them a life of easy living. Peter was amongst those who died for Jesus.
God has promised that all those who know Him will one day be with Him forever, this is because of God’s gift of salvation as John 3 v 16 says “God so loved the world ( the world system which is against God) that He gave His only Son (Jesus) so that everyone (literally) who believes (‘believes’ is to put your trust in, not just believe it as a truth) in Him (Jesus) will not perish (death is effectively separation it separates us from those we have known in life and unless we have believed it will separate us from God for eternity) but have eternal life “
If God is ‘unknown’ to you, you may know Him personally – so will you seek Him?