Over no question have we in Western culture stumbled more than over whether we can reasonably and rationally claim to know the truth about God. When one ventures to suggest in public that he might know something about God, he will almost for sure be greeted with skepticism, dour glances, and other forms of disapproval. "Who do you think you are that you could know about God?"
The challenge is usually not given intelligently, but as an emotional put down, an attribution of arrogance, rather than a challenge of fact or logic. Sadly, most Christians back down because they do not know how to present a case based on fact and logic.
It then becomes a question of arrogance (on one side or the other) rather than a question about the truth of the matter. Skeptics have been very successful in forcing a tail-between-the-legs retreat on the part of Christians because Christians (and Jews) have lost any confidence that we can respond reasonably in the face of the supposed "Scientific" juggernaut. We Christians respond (badly) to the charge of arrogance rather than forcing an honest assessment of fact and logic because we do not believe that if Jesus should return, that He could win an open debate with Freud, Marx, or Darwin. Jesus would lose the Scopes trial "PR" contest all over again (or so we fear).
The first thing which must be said is that we know things only two ways -- by fact and by logic. We observe the world to collect facts, and then we reason from those facts to logical conclusions. So the debate about God must be based on those two foundations of any and all knowledge. (See Epistemology Library and The Authority of the Bible....)
But fact and logic apply to theology and the spiritual life just as much as to physics and chemistry. The problem has not been the success of fact and logic in the natural sciences, but rather that theologians, spiritual directors, preachers, and pastors have given up on fact and logic in their own realm (thank you, Mr. Schliermacher, et al). A major victory for secular forces was convincing Christians that the spiritual life was not about fact or logic -- which is to say, not about truth.
Schliermacher and others of the early 19th century taught that religion is not an objective fact, but rather an inner conviction, a "deeply held belief", as we hear today. It should indeed be those things, but if our conviction and beliefs are not based on fact and logic, we are only entertaining ourselves, and setting our culture up for the "feel-good" mess into which Western Civ. has fallen.
God is not only a fact, God is The Fact of all life, the great "I AM" of life, which He proposed to demonstrate through Moses to Pharaoh. And intends to demonstrate to each of us who is willing to listen and do the appropriate homework. Bertrand Russell was asked what he would do if he were to be asked by God why he did not believe in Him. Russell replied that he would tell God that God had not given him enough evidence.
If God is so incompetent the He cannot communicate His case (His revelation) to persons of reasonable intelligence, then indeed, Russell might have a case. But it may also be that Russell was himself ignorant of how to look for the evidence, or that he did not want to hear the evidence, no matter how good it was. The God of the Bible expects to present His case openly and publicly so that any truth-seeker can come into a knowledge of Himself.
There are other routes which we can take, but as a preliminary step, to focus this quest for the truth about the vision of God, there are five points of personal growth for any human being, five decisions which can be used as a preliminary plumb line. These five decisions point to five areas of discussion generic to all mankind, five decisions which we must all make, and to which everyone must give an answer. (See the chapter, "The Decision to Be Well" in Biblical Inner Healing, available in the Shopping Mall. The chapter is also available from Emmaus Ministries on audio tape.)
In the context of the five decisions, the question becomes, then, whether the secular, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Christian -- or some other -- can reasonably be called the correct answer. The task of the Christian is to present the reasonableness of the Biblical answer for the five decisions, compare them with answers from other religions, and then to get out of the way so that God can demonstrate that He can in fact answer the real-life query put to Him by any person. He can supply the needs represented by these decisions. Can the other claimants to the title of "Divinity" do so?
[Note: these five decisions are discussed in detail from a healing/therapy point of view in Biblical Inner Healing (see Shopping Mall).]
Truth Decision: to be a Truth-Seeker -- at any cost to myself;
Dependency Decision: to find that which is dependable in life, and to rest the whole weight of my being there;
Personal Responsibility Decision: to take personal responsibility for my own behavior, actions, reactions, attitudes;
Moral Responsibility Decision: to seek out the authority for true righteousness, and to put myself under that authority;
Love-Community Decision: to do all things with a loving spirit toward all persons, regardless of whether they love me.
These five decisions properly made will lead a person to the fullness of personhood, and are thus a good plumbline for discerning a God who desires the fullness of personhood for His creatures. The first task is to clarify the questions and their importance, and then secondly to clarify the competing answers, and especially their different worldviews.
If I am called to be a truth-seeker at any cost to myself, does the God whom I worship hold Himself to that standard? Does He call me to that standard? Does God meet me on the field of honest discussion and truth-seeking, or does God force us into irrational, unreasonable modes of belief and worship?
The God of the Bible, the Judeo-Christian God, has as His basic principle of communication, "Come, let us reason together...." (Isaiah 1:18) The Bible is not a book on philosophy and debate, but at every point, God calls His people together, and offers to give reasonable evidence, rational reasons for their believing in Him. And then demonstrates that He is able to perform the promises He makes to them.
Does any other alleged deity do the same?
Because we human beings are fragile, because we are vulnerable to many contrary and hostile circumstances, we are forced to seek a dependable base upon which to rest our dependency. Can the God I worship provide that for me? Is God interested in my welfare so that He will provide me with that solid foundation for my personhood?
For Christians and Jews, the hand of God is the symbol for His provision for our lives, His creative power, the source of our being. Salvation means the reconciliation of ourselves with Him so that we can indeed receive that power of being, which is invulnerable to any forces of the circumstantial world of the creation.
In what manner does other alleged deities provide this ground of our being?
This is the decision to be open, honest, live in the light. The relationship which the God of the Bible plans for us is precisely that living in the light. God Himself is the Light of truth, the light of reality, the life of fact, and the light of logic. God never speaks that which is not factually true, never logically contradicts Himself, and draws His creature into that openness of truth which is the foundation of His kingdom. This decision makes true, faithful, and stable community possible.
Is there any other deity which makes living in the light a primary characteristic and condition of relationship to Himself? Is there any other deity which holds Himself to those values of living in the light with His creation?
The highest law of the Kingdom in the Bible is the law to love God and to love one another -- a description of a community, a family. The command to love is the command to get ourselves as fast as we can into that relationship which constitutes the Kingdom.
Is there any other deity which plans as the goal of all life that we become a part of an eternal and loving community, based on the eternal stability of the love of the Creator?
The Bible alone sees as the goal of life a community of love. Eastern religions are inherently impersonal. Ultimate reality is not a Person, but a condition, or an essence, or a state of being. All persons lose their individual identity as they enter this alleged divine state. There is no possibility of personal love because no personal individual beings survive. All things evaporate into the cosmic consciousness, or into some similar impersonal state of affairs.
These are the views that the spiritual life "transcends" morality. The distinction between good and evil ultimately vanishes because the original essence of life, the original womb of life (the Ying-Yang of Chinese philosophy, the coincidence of all opposites) contains both good and evil as eternal realities. Good never wins over evil.
So only in the Bible is God unambiguously good, and only is the Biblical Kingdom of Heaven is evil unambiguously overcome.
Only in the Biblical world is God defined as a personal Creator who is, by virtue of being Creator, also Sovereign. Only the Bible proposes a cosmos of Intelligent Design (or ID, as the newly emerging response to "evolution" as the cosmic Source, is becoming known). All non-Biblical views of the cosmos begin with an inherently impersonal "cosmic stuff" out of which evolves our present world, and back into which the present world (of time and space and of persons and relationships) flows and disappears.
Is there any other religion which offers persons eternal hope, an eternal community, a family of healthy relationships, an abundant life with loved ones?
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