Confessed atheist Richard Dawkins is well-known for his book The God Delusion. But is Dawkins right? Are Christians who believe in God deluded?
God’s word clearly says we should be always ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within us. But this doesn’t mean we’ll be able to give an answer to satisfy the mind and heart of people who choose not to believe! (Remember Hebrews 11:6 NLT: ‘Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him’).
In trying to make some meaningful contribution to help you think about these issues, here are three brief thoughts to guide your thinking.
Some years ago a well-known television comedian used the ‘catchphrase’: ‘May your god go with you.’ This statement implies (a) there is more than one ‘god’ and (b) he cannot be defined.
Christian believers say he is wrong to imply there is more than one ‘god’ but that he is almost right to say he cannot be defined.
As we look back on the history of humankind, people have always had some form of belief in a god …
- The most ancient people we know about worshipped the sun and other heavenly bodies.
- The ancient Egyptians had many gods and believed in their influence in human affairs.
- Likewise the ancient Greeks.
- The Romans also had many gods and even deified some people such as their emperors. A line from a well-known poem about an incident in Roman history says, ‘Oh Tiber, father Tiber, to whom the Romans pray’ (Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Horatius).
In these few examples we see how from as far back as we can trace historically, people have always recognised a ‘god’ existed in some form even though their understanding was lacking.
This is basically what the apostle Paul says in Romans 1: ‘They knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks and they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like, the result was that their minds became dark and confused claiming to be wise they became utter fools instead and instead of worshipping the glorious ever-living God, they worshipped idols made to look like mere people, or birds or animals and snakes’ (v21-23).
As Christians our belief in God comes through his revelation of himself. Verses 19-20 are also significant: ‘The truth about God is known to them instinctively, God has put this knowledge in their hearts, from the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature, so they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.’
This tells me people have a natural instinct about God (because God created people in his image – that is, the capacity to know him), but people may choose to ignore it or even deny it.
There’s a story about a Christian missionary to certain remote unreached tribes. These people lived very simply, they had never even seen a watch nor had they heard the teaching of the commandments about jealousy, coveting and stealing. One day as the missionary was washing he removed his watch, setting it on a nearby table. When he turned to pick it up, one of the natives, who had lifted the watch and was looking at it, instinctively hid it behind his back!
The Bible reminds us that since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have had an instinctive knowledge of right and wrong.
A dictionary definition of the word ‘logic’ is ‘a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something.’ People are able to make cars, watches, aeroplanes, spaceships and computers. There are many other items we touch, use or wear which have been made – we wouldn’t expect to throw together items such as pieces of metal and rubber and expect to find a car suddenly and ‘simply’ appear!
Of course not: it’s not logical! We know it takes intelligent design, a manufacturing process to make all the various components and an assembly process to produce the finished product, whether it’s a car or any other ‘man-made’ product.
In light of this, you can see why believing God is the Creator is a proper and reasonable way of thinking about or understanding the universe and the world in which we live.
The human body isn’t made up of materials you could buy in any hardware shop, throw together and expect them to produce an emotional, thinking, human being.
Even for those who will not accept the scripture record about a Creator God, this is illogical!
It’s just not logical that matter should come together or that a ‘big bang’ could have the effect of producing living, intelligent, thinking, emotional human beings without an ‘intelligent creation’ a divine creation as the Bible records in Psalm 139:14 (‘We are fearfully and wonderfully made’) – it is a divine act of creation and is also entirely logical.
Humankind has acknowledged a ‘god’ historically and that it is logically a proper and reasonable way of thinking and understanding. But the best way to know God is personally.
Ancient history has recorded some of the ways in which people saw and felt the ‘influence’ of the ‘gods.’ The Bible tells that God revealed himself in his creation, that he has always been a ‘personal’ God. The Creator walked in the garden with Adam and Eve communicating with them (Genesis 3) – this speaks about fellowship and that is what God desires to have with people.
It was sad that Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden because of sin caused by disobedience – but even so the good news is that, as scripture records, God continued to speak to people.
The most significant personal revelation of God came in the Lord Jesus – God coming in the form of a man. Over the centuries God has continued to make himself personally known to people – sometimes through what we call ‘miracles’ either of healing a sick body or perhaps in a deliverance from a specific situation of danger.
Christians believe God has sovereignty over life yet we are not animated robots, He allows us freedom of choice, no one is ‘forced’ into believing. Christians find in God meaning, purpose and direction for life (it is not that Christians are ‘superhuman’ or are incapable of making mistakes or have a monopoly of ‘good living’) but everything has its purpose in helping us to get to know the God who wants us to know him.
Naturally there are many questions and matters we may find difficult to understand. Our minds – wonderful as they are with incredible potential – cannot fully comprehend God. But – look around you, look within you – and you can find God in a personal way.
The emphasis in Hebrews 11:6 – quoted above – is in the context of ‘rewards’ and means God will ‘respond’ to those who sincerely seek to know him. This does not mean a great lightning bolt will streak across the sky, or that a voice will boom from heaven, but God says if you seek him you will find him, if you seek him with all your heart. God speaks through his creation he speaks through his witnesses (Christians) through his word the Bible and through the circumstances of life.
Among the reasons some people will not acknowledge God is that it challenges our self-righteousness – the idea that we are good enough; it challenges our self-sufficiency — the idea we can get along without God; it challenges our self-control – the idea we can live as we please without being accountable to God.
When writing his account of Pauls’ missionary journeys in the book of Acts, author Luke tells us about the apostle’s visit to Athens where he saw an altar to the Agnostos – the ‘unknown god.’ Paul explained this ‘unknown god’ to these people telling them that in him (God) we live and move and have our being, this means everyone, whether or not they acknowledge God, benefits from God’s common grace – his goodness to everyone, goodness that’s designed to lead people to repentance.
An accusation often levelled is that the Bible is not true. However the greatest testimony to knowing God personally is a changed life. One of the most important testimonies ever made was by Jesus’ disciple, Peter. He knew Jesus personally, walked with him, was rebuked by him – and, sadly, even betrayed him.
But the forgiven Peter declared: ‘We were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:16).
When you look at the evidence, it is clear to see that neither Peter nor any of the others who knew Jesus personally had anything to gain from making up stories about him. It most certainly did not make them rich or famous so far as the world was concerned nor did it give them a life of easy living. Peter was among those martyred for Jesus.
God has promised that all who know him will one day be with him forever. This is because of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus: ‘God so loved the world (the world system which is against God) that he gave his only Son (Jesus) so that everyone who believes (‘believes’ is to put your trust in, not just believe it as a truth) in him (Jesus) will not perish (death effectively separates us from God for eternity) but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
If God is ‘unknown’ to you, you can know him personally – so will you seek him?
It’s Easter this month… the Christian celebration of Jesus substitutionary death on Calvary’s cross to fulfil John 3:16 and to …
- Save all who accept him as Saviour by genuinely repenting of sins and asking forgiveness.
- Restore us into meaningful fellowship with God.
- Enable us to really know God personally.
Brian Bell attends Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland and is grateful for the privilege and opportunity he has been given to serve his Lord. Brian is also a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Link: firstname.lastname@example.org