Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Glimpses of God

Atheists and agnostics challenge belief in God by claiming there is no evidence for God’s existence, much less proof. Personal research provides plentiful commentary on the question of God’s existence and how individuals deal with the issue. Believers in God function as missionaries attempting to carry their message of faith to unbelievers. Personal experience reveals that such discussions are often ineffective, not only in persuading someone that God exists, but also in changing minds concerning other topics such as evolution, intelligent design, or the age of the earth. Each individual sets his own standard of proof or acceptability of evidence. Often the standard for acceptable scientific evidence or proof is almost impossibly strict.

Acceptance of evidence for God’s existence is a complex, subjective matter. Personal belief in metaphysical, ontological, and theological realities connects with one’s goals, ideals, and worldview. Issues lurking in one’s background influence a person’s quest for belief in God. We could inquire, “What evidence or proof would you find acceptable to tilt you toward belief in the existence of God?” In Old Testament times, the ancient Israelites personally witnessed many supernatural miracles, particularly toward the end of Egyptian captivity. In New Testament times, many miracles were performed by Jesus and the disciples in which ordinary laws of nature were suspended. Many contemporary witnesses observed the miracles. Some witnesses believed but many did not. Personal belief in God is not achieved merely by perception of proof or evidence. The human heart is involved in belief as significantly as human intellect and sensory evidence.

The matter of personal belief or disbelief in God’s existence is paramount in our human experience. Some say the issue is not important for personal fulfillment. Do such statements mask an inner heart of fear or doubt? Likewise, our vision of God extends far beyond whether or not he exists. How has God acted in the creation of life? Has God guided the development of life on the planet? Did God form humanity In His Image as Genesis states? What are the implications of how we perceive such vital issues?

We resist quoting the following passages as proof texts for those who express doubt about God’s existence and actions. Doubters would not be persuaded to believe merely with scripture passages. Rather, we present these scriptures as affirmation of our personal thinking. Ecclesiastes is an Old Testament canonical Book of Wisdom. Among many other expressions of wisdom is hidden an observation of profound significance. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) states, “…He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” This passage indicates a human awareness or longing for connection with the Creator, as well as curiosity about the Creator’s role in our world of existence.

Nehemiah 9 records an expression of collective worship at a key time in Israel’s history. After the exile to Babylon, the Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem by Cyrus, the Persian king who had conquered Babylon. The Jews who rebuilt the city and its walls were overcome with emotional worship and repentance. Led by Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest, they led the people in confession of their past sins. One section of their worship celebration stands apart: “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:6 NIV). Underlying their recognition of God and his redemptive role was a startling acknowledgement that the Lord had created the universe, life on Earth, and the beings in heaven which worship the Creator.

We posit that man possesses an intrinsic awareness of an eternal, omnipotent God. Our intellect enables us to observe our cosmos from macrocosmos to microcosmos and intuitively infer that God made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all creatures on this earth in the land and sea. This intrinsic awareness supersedes academic instruction about the reality of marvelous design features present in our universe. Alvin Plantinga, contemporary giant of Christian theology and philosophy, has stated his views of “warranted beliefs” and “properly basic beliefs” in his many writings. In Plantinga’s concept of “warranted” or “properly basic” beliefs, it is not necessary to infer God’s existence from other truths to be reasonable. His ideas originated with earlier figures such as Protestant Reformation theologian John Calvin who articulated the idea of humanity’s sensus divinitatis—an intrinsic sense of divine existence.