For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7
2 Corinthians 5:7
Recently The Times newspaper has reported on (and is serialising) Professor Stephen Hawking's new book The Grand Design (BBC site), in which he claims that advances in Physics show that there is no place for a creator in the foundation of the universe.
Prominent atheists, such as Professor Dawkins assert that this is further proof that God does not exist. Theists claim that it proves nothing. Agnostics yawn and say it neither proves nor disproves anything.
There has been much back and forth in the media between people of faith and those who do not believe in God. I read a short interchange in The Times between Ruth Gledhill, who is a Christian and Professor Dawkins who is not only atheist but extremely anti-theist. She put forth her beliefs and he told her she was 'silly' and that arguments for the existence of God were 'silly'.
On that note a quick quote from a paraphrase:
The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It's written,
I'll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I'll expose so-called experts as crackpots. 1
If the shoe fits eh? :) Anyway...
As I read such interchanges between those of faith and those without faith, and other articles based on the subject, I thought about the futility of seemingly circular arguments like these. You can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God entirely with reasoned argument alone. Even when God walked the earth (in Christ) and worked astounding miracles, walked on water, raised the dead and resurrected from the dead himself, people still claimed it was a scam, or he was from the devil, or he was crazy. It is not until death will we meet (or in some minds not meet) the full glory of God face-to-face with unveiled faces. Indeed one day EVERY knee will bow before the Christ they rejected. Then we could prove He exists because it will be pretty obvious because there He'll be and there I'll be face to the floor no doubt. And if I could go back to earth I'd be all, "I've seen Him!!!", and the atheists and probably a lot of theists too, would be all, "Just have a little lie down now you crazy woman".
Words alone cannot change.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 17:10
There is the truth. The truth comes through the Word of God. This does not simply mean the written words of scripture, because the Pharisees and scribes read them yet rejected the Christ of Whom the Holy Scriptures spoke. Instead, this means words inhabited by God. This makes no sense to the non-Christian. But we know that Jesus IS the very word of God (the Word made flesh [read John 1]) and by His Holy Spirit He brings to life the gospel message. This is why two people can read the same piece of scripture, hear the same message and yet one will be transformed and the other feel nothing. For one the Holy Spirit has entered in and for another He has not. It is not the words, but The Word that changes. (NB:This does not by any means suggest that scripture is in itself uninspired by the Holy Spirit, what I mean is has the mind that reads the text been transformed or led by the Holy Spirit? - see 1 Cor 2:14 quoted later)
Even Christ did not reason with fleshly words, but with the very words given Him by His Father. The apostles, those sent by God (apostle means 'one who is sent'), spoke only what God told them to say.
For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. John 3:34
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them... Acts 4:8a
For it is true that we are not saved by the works of man (his intellectual reasoning), but by faith in something we can neither see, nor prove. Oh I'm not saying that we cannot marvel in the writings of intelligent men (C.S. Lewis springs to mind) who show us the beauty and wonder of God in such eloquent and sublime prose. But unless God Himself inhabits the words no change will take place. We may say it was the clever book that convinced us of God, but I'm pretty sure that takes away from the mercy and grace of God who puts the signposts along the road. It is not cleverness that changes a heart but it is God. If we claim it is our cleverness and our intelligence then we claim glory for ourselves. But if we, like the apostles (of whom many were uneducated men), rely solely on the wisdom of God, then our words will be living.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Unless you have been changed by God you cannot acknowledge His existence. It is a deep knowing that is impossible to explain in fleshly words of reason, it is impossible to prove unless you have experienced it. It comes through faith.
while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
I know God exists. Yet if I were to say this to an atheist they would say 'prove it', to which I could say 'prove He doesn't'. A circular argument.
In fact it is almost irreverent to try to prove the existence of God. Why should we justify the Great I AM to someone else? It's almost like someone saying to me, 'Prove that you love your husband'. Well how rude is that? How dare you suggest I don't. If I were pushed I could point to my actions, but they could say that I am just acting, I could point to my words, but they could say they were lies. Instead, by faith and trust my husband knows I love him. And yet faith and trust in the love of God is even deeper than this. My husband's love for me and mine for him is temporal, God's love for me is eternal, unfailing and deeper than the deeps higher than the heights. And it came as if from nowhere.
For me the discovery of God and faith in the truth of His existence came not because I had the doctrine of the church bashed into my head, but of the simple and transforming realisation that Jesus loves me.
I was brought up in the church from the age of 4. A lovely wonderful church. At age 12 I gave my life to the Lord, I said the prayer of repentance. Yet the Bible was dry, the sermons were boring and in my teens I started attending church less and less.
Whilst inter-railing round Europe with a friend of mine I found Christ. As I stood in a small church in Venice I contemplated a crucifix and was flooded with the love of God. As if out of nowhere.
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8
I knew then, I knew. Jesus loves me. Oh I could weep right now as I remember that moment. Those days were as if I walked on golden light. Suddenly the Bible was clear, the prophesies in the Old Testament, the Exodus, the Creation itself was all about Christ.
I cannot prove this happened to me. I cannot prove that it came from God. I cannot prove that I am not slightly/extremely potty and had some kind of synapse explosion. All I know is what I know, and I wish that all men may know it too. Oh I wibble now and then, my faith is weak and my actions don't always reflect the Lord Who dwells within me by His Holy Spirit. Oh how I quench and grieve Him at times. But He is there and I know it.
I read this post by Jennifer Fulwiler 'Finding God in 5 Steps', in which she states:
I believe that God’s existence can be “proven” in a certain sense, as long as you understand that God = Love, and what you’re trying to prove is Love itself. This is not something you can know about from analyzing data or reading books alone. To get the “proof” that you seek, you must enter the laboratory of your heart, and actually conduct the experiment: live, for a while, as if God did exist. Pray. Follow the Ten Commandments. Show love and kindness to everyone, even your enemies. Read the Bible. Give God the thanks and honor and respect you would show him if he did exist. As Pascal suggested, just try it for a while, and see what happens.
This is intriguing and wonderful. It is His love that transforms. We know God is love, yet we often try to argue for God (oh how conceited we are) to non-believers without that love in our hearts, our actions or our words. God is love, and He must inhabit our words if they are to transform. Do we really believe we can add something to gospel by our own thoughts, ways or intellectual reasoning?
I must add, I don't claim that everyone's conversion or 'born-again' experience is the same. For some it is instant and life changing, for some it is a succession of small incidences of God in their lives as faith begins to clean out all the gunk of fleshly thinking. It will involve repentance (a turning away from sin and worldliness) and it always involves the love of God because you cannot separate the cross from the love of God.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Our Assistant Pastor for many years before becoming a Christian sought proof of the existence of God. He read all the books, he argued on the internet forums. He decided that God mustn't exist. The suddenly one day, again as if from nowhere, he realised that God loved him. "All the arguments about the existence of God were suddenly futile, I knew He loved me and that was all I needed to know".
1- From The Message paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 1:18
Scripture quotes from the New King James Version