Last post, I discussed Nate’s idea that God used miracles to prove he existed in Jesus’ day, and so he should still do so today if he existed. And I gave reasons to believe that wasn’t a correct understanding of God, nor of Jesus’ life.
So, does God give us any good reasons to believe, or does he just leave us to work it out for ourselves?
What God does
Christians believe that God has done, and is doing, two important things so we can know him:
Jesus: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father”
Christians believe (among other things) that Jesus revealed God to us. In John 14:9, he said that anyone who has seen him has seen God. Paul says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
The life and person of Jesus are meant to show us what God is like, and answer many of our questions.
The Holy Spirit
But can we believe it is true? Can we have confidence that the wonderful news that God exists and loves us is not just a fairy tale?
The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit does indeed give us that confidence. He “testifies about Jesus” (John 15:26), puts God’s love in our hearts (Romans 5:5) and gives us confidence that what we believe is true (Ephesians 1:13-14).
So our faith and confidence come from the Holy Spirit, who will give faith to all who will receive it. But how?
What we do
It is not as if we have to just sit and wait to see if the Holy Spirit gives us faith, and it will either happen or it won’t. Jesus said we need to seek him and not give up (Matthew 7:7-8). We have to want to know. And if we don’t want to know, we may not ever find out.
But we are all different, and the Holy Spirit uses different ways to convince us ….
Some simply believe the New Testament
There are good historical reasons to believe the New Testament is substantially true. Some people have no trouble believing it, and the good news about Jesus.
New Testament historical study
Some have greater difficulty with understanding and accepting the New Testament. So they do the historical study and find that there is enough there to believe in Jesus, even though they still have questions. (We don’t need to have all questions answered before we accept the truth of something.)
Experiences of God
It has been estimated that at least 300 million christians around the world believe they have experienced or witnessed a miraculous intervention by God – in many cases this is healing, but sometimes it is a vision of Jesus. They find this quite sufficient reason to believe, and others may find their faith increased by their reports.
Some people come to God in desperation, seeking comfort, hope or solutions to life problems – and find that God answers their prayers and puts their lives back on an even course. So of course they trust him from then on.
Suck it and see
Sometimes we cannot know something from the outside – we have to experience it to understand. For some people, christianity is like that. They try it and find it “works” in all sorts of ways – it gives them peace, it gives life meaning and it motivates them. So they keep on following Jesus, with renewed confidence.
Kindness and love
Some people find when they need help that christians offer them unconditional love and practical kindness. It makes them think that their beliefs must be true, and so they believe too.
It makes sense
For some people, life seems to not make sense until they see it as being a gift from a God who gives them purpose and makes sense of everything – from the universe to love – and so has the ring of truth.
The world around us
For many people, the world around us gives many clues to the existence and character of God. For them, the origin and ‘fine-tuned’ design of the universe, out human sense of right and wrong, logic and free will, the existence of love, beauty, mathematics and DNA information all point to a designer.
Mix ‘n’ match
For most believers, belief comes from a combination of these.
For me, it would be the world around us, plus the experiences of God that reliable people report, plus historical study of the New Testament, plus the growing experience of more than 50 years living with God.
Some of us will find some of these reasons inadequate. But some people will make choices in quite different ways than we will, whether it is to believe disbelieve. There is little point in telling them how they ‘ought’ to think, we just have to get used to it.
What about those who seek but don’t seem to find?
I can only report on what I observe or know. I see that some people seem to honestly seek God and yet don’t find him. I can only guess at how this works, but perhaps:
- they are still on the way to finding God; and/or
- they still have some learning to do; or
- they have some presuppositions that are preventing them seeing the wood for the trees; or
- they are looking for ‘proof’ when proof is rarely possible in life; or
- they want to believe on their own terms, which keep God out; or
- they are not yet really seeking honestly.
Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened
Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8