/

How does God ‘prove’ himself to believers?

July 13th, 2013

If there's a God ...

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.

Everyone’s different

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.

Changed lives

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.

Everyone’s different

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.

Be encouraged!

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

6 Comments

  1. Some of us will find some of these reasons inadequate.

    Yes. And God could do more for these people if he wanted to. According to the Bible, he did do more for all the people who actually interacted with him directly.

    If salvation was given to everyone whether they believed or not, then it wouldn’t matter if people found God in this life or not. At the end, they’d all be reconciled anyway. But Christianity doesn’t seem to teach this, and most Christians don’t believe it works that way. So why doesn’t God meet those people where they are?

    In your list of reasons for why some people seek but don’t find, you left out one possibility: the Christian god isn’t real after all.

    Thanks for writing this though. I honestly did enjoy reading it, and I appreciate the time you took to address my questions about it.

  2. Hi Nate, thanks for your positive response, just one point. There are three main views about who God accepts.

    1. Exclusivism – only those who specifically put their faith in Jesus are saved.
    2. Inclusivism – Jesus died for all, and those who respond to the light they are given are saved, whether they have heard of him or not.
    3. Universalism – everyone will be saved in the end.

    I would guess most christians are #1, some are #3 (e.g. Rob Bell may be), but there is a growing number who are #2. CS Lewis and Billy Graham seem to be among them, and some Bible passages seem to teach it.

    I hold to #2, and some of your objections here may not be relevant to this view.

  3. As you know, I’m in the last category of those who seek and cannot find. I guess I must fall into the first two dot points; some way to go. I genuinely believe that I’ve been doing it with an open heart, accepting what ever comes, and I also think that I’ve moved away from needing ‘proof’ in the way that I used to view it.
    I suppose that I just become very disheartened when I cry out to God, so often ‘just give me a *feeling* that you’re real, just a sense of intuition- I’m not asking for you to move mountains here!!’ And I feel….nothing.
    It makes me sad, Ill admit it. I just feel as if, if there is a God, then he’s not bothering with me.

  4. Hi Eva, thanks for making that heartfelt comment. I must say I feel somewhat agonised over what you say, and have been thinking and praying over what response I can make. I know one person cannot usually give another person answers to difficult questions like this, but human nature wants to try.

    Although God often seems far away, it seems clear that he does often meet people where they are at, interact with and show us grace in ways we need it. Examples include the stories in Conversion stories, and some of the other stories in the True life stories section of this website.

    So it seems he is often willing to heal us (whether physically or emotionally), guide us, give our lives direction, or give us renewed understanding and faith so we know him better, or a sense of his presence with us. But it may be that we need to seek him more than we seek the feeling of his presence with us.

    I can only encourage you to ask for renewed understanding and faith, enough to enable you to believe. This may not be “proof”, but it may be convincing. I will pray for that for you too.

    I hope that helps at least a little. Please email me if further discussion would help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *