Readers looking for a bullet-proof treatise on the existence of God are advised to look elsewhere. I am prejudiced in favor of God, and this tale of mine is one filled with holes and assumptions. In many cases I trust arguments made by others that I don’t bother to link, repeat, or even reference. But the rationale presented below has been sufficient to convince me of my conclusions. Ironic, in a post titled “know.” But we know very little anyway. Just ask Descartes.
Is God Real?
The central realization when I decided I wanted to give myself to God again in 2007 was the realization that “God is real, and He loves me.”
And so the central question for my doubt would have to be “Is God real, and does He love me?” The doubt had been a long time in coming. In most stories, things happen that shatter your faith, and in my story things like that sure had. For a long time, I held onto faith out of sheer desperation. At some points, I knew for sure that God was real. And at other points I wondered if He even cared… until His love overwhelmed me and I was sure He did again.
But the deep doubt finally resurfaced: Does God exist? And does He love me?
And so I asked. I wrestled. I talked. I prayed to a God I wasn’t 100% sure existed. I begged Him to exist.
Creation, I decided, could have been the product of random chance, maybe. Love could just be biological. Beauty could be a trick of biology, too. It could be familiarity assumed as beauty – mankind has seen trees for as long as we’ve been around, and we’ve all seen trees on warm sunny days which we decide socially to be “good.” Maybe Trinitarian theology – God is three and one in loving community – was created out of the realization that people are happier together. Large coincidences, to be sure, but that could be all there was to them. Coincidences and naturally occurring phenomena.
But creation was the crack in the armor, the Achilles heel of doubt. So many things are set such that if they were only a little tiny bit off, life would never have happened. Even if Biological Macro-Evolution had been the cause of all life, random chance must have had help. And philosophy insists on a first cause. God must exist.
What Manner of God?
But what manner of God is He? Does He care? Or has God adopted a sort of hands-off approach to creation: Plan really really well and thus not even need to give it nudges? No. By Him all things hold together. So God is the glue in the fabric of reality. But is He more?
The Bible is riddled with stories of God working. But most of them are about prophets. Or people with ridiculous strength (like Samson). Some of them have been doubted by highly educated scholars who study old testament literature (Jonah, Job, etcetera). So how does God work?
- In Creation
- To people
- Through People
He controls the weather. And He occasionally modifies it. Why does bad weather happen to good people, then? Four possible reasons immediately present themselves:
- Mysterious purposes unknown to us
- God just lets weather happen.
1. People sin, and hurricanes are God’s judgment. Or the earth has been made in such a way that it has personality that hates sin and tries to “spew” the wicked out. Or a world scarred by sin and rebellion will act in horrible ways. 2. For His glory – the rescue teams in hurricane-strewn areas are largely Christian. Good of humanity happens. 3. Does God do what God does and simply choose not to explain His reasons? 4. Has He simply adopted a “hands-off” approach? I believe option 3 works best.
How does a good God allow evil? Lewis answers this well: To love God requires that we have the option not to love Him. A mediocre camera can take mediocre photos at best, while an excellent camera can take excellent pictures but can also take horrible photos.
How does God interact with people?
Jesus is the epicenter of God’s interaction with mankind. God so loved the world the He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!
But was Jesus just an exception? How besides Jesus does God interact with people? He moves through them. Willing, unwilling, witting, or unwitting. Some (like Samuel) serve God willingly and knowingly (“wittingly”). Some serve Him willingly without knowing what they’re doing (I suspect that’s most of His willing servants). Some serve Him unwillingly and unwittingly, like Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1). And I’m sure there are some who serve Him knowing they are but wishing they weren’t, but that is the minority.
So is this all? No. Occasionally He performs signs and wonders. If one is prone to believe, these will lead to an undeniable set of “coincidences” that can’t be refuted in the minds of the believer. If one is prone to disbelieve, there is a sort of “plausible deniability.” It’s almost as though God wants to be sought out. Unwilling to force anyone to believe that He exists. Like He’s shy, or something. Philip Yancey points out in The Jesus I Never Knew that Jesus’ miracles were called signs, not proofs.
The Bible doesn’t record God talking to everyone. In fact, God’s interaction with mankind is so notable that the writers of scripture have gone to great pains to record each interaction. At times, it seems that He doesn’t speak to anyone personally for long periods of time. When God told Samuel’s mom that she would have a baby, she was kinda surprised. As though she wasn’t expecting God to reply or something.
Something More (than Jesus)
I’m not particularly happy with this idea of Limited Godly Interaction. I want to believe that nothing is coincidence. That all good comes from God. That He likes me. That He loves me. Not me as part of the general humanity, but me particularly and individually. That somehow… He cares. About me in particular.
I want to credit Him with parking spaces “magically” appearing, money coming from seemingly nowhere to pay my college bills, and yes, that beautiful girl I’m in love with just so happening to be in love with me too. I want to credit Him with more than just the colors of fall and the grace of spring finally arriving, or the stark beauty of winter: I want to believe that when I walk out my front door, God is always whispering, “What do you think, David? Do you like it? I made it for you.”
But if I say that God is packed into every instant of life, I find that I’m not simply the favored, spoiled son. It seems that God is perfectly okay with letting my heart break in two. And maybe that shows His love, too. Maybe He’d be spoiling me too much if He didn’t let my heart break. Maybe it would ruin me. Maybe heartbreak is just a part of this human life. Maybe loving Jesus doesn’t immunize me against pain, hurt, sin, or death. One day I’ll even die.
Just like He did.
But maybe, just maybe, He’ll be there, packed even in every instant of pain. Maybe He heals my hurts. Maybe the cross says that God does feel with us. Maybe He not only heals our hurts, but feels them. And He cursed the sin that led to all this hurt. He goes with us even to death. Maybe He does care. Maybe every good thing is a gift from His hands. Maybe the only bad in our lives is that which is allowed by Him.
And one day.
Jesus will come back and tear open the sky, raise His hands, and say
The march of the wicked will finally be stopped – forever. The hungry will be invited to the banquet to end all banquets, the hospital rejects will be healed with a word. The oppressed will be liberated, the slaves will go free. The mournful broken hearts rejoice; the humble poor believe. And Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire forever and ever and never leave. The hurting will be held in the arms of Jesus. More will be done for those for whom nothing more could be done.
And now? Well now… now, we live as members of the kingdom. We pray for God to stop the wicked, and we thank God for the sword in the hand of government. We invite the hungry to dinner. We volunteer at hospitals, or build new ones. We hold the hurting, we do more for those for whom nothing more can be done. And we attack the mighty gates of hell that will not prevail against us. They did not prevail against our good Master, nor shall they against His servants.
David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.
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