Return to 3rd Quarter 2019 articles.
We have been publishing this journal since 1970, and in all those years we have written numerous articles dealing with evidence for the existence of God from a scientific perspective. We have talked about cosmology and the question of the creation of time, space, matter/energy, and we have considered approaches from quantum mechanics and relativity. We have given many evidences of a teleological perspective, that there is design in the creation that cannot be explained by chance. We have dealt with those human characteristics that are not a product of the brain and suggest that we have been created in God's image. We have also talked about the concept of morality and why humans can be moral. All of these arguments tend to say that “there is something out there” without identifying in any detail what the nature of that “something” is.
In our first quarter edition of this journal, we talked about why we exist and knowing God can help us go further with that understanding. In the second quarter, we talked about knowing God through his creation. The existence of beauty tells us something about the nature of God. Quantum mechanics and the evidence of dimensions beyond the space/time continuum in which we exist are now hot scientific topics that tell us more about what and who God is. God's capacity to love transcends the human ability to get past the struggles of life. The fact that God is outside of time answers our concerns about the future. It also enables us to comprehend how we can look to God as a friend during hard times.
In this discussion, we want to explore the fact that we can also know God through his Word. If the Bible is inspired, then it should help us to know God. If I might inject a personal parallel to this discussion, my relationship with my wife took place in a similar way. When my first wife Phyllis died in 2008, I found myself desperately in need of something that would replace what had been a good marriage. Through a series of unlikely connections, I began writing to a woman who had attended one of my presentations in Grand Junction, Colorado. In a period of months, I came to know this person well enough to believe that we had so much in common that marriage was possible. That marriage happened with virtually no personal contact. While there have been a few surprises, we are now in our tenth year of marriage, and the relationship has blessed me.
In the same way, I have come to know God through his written Word. John 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word” and verse 14 tells us “the Word became flesh.” 1 John 1:1-2 refers to the same Word as the “Word of life. The life appeared; and we have seen it and testify to it.” The Greek word used in these verses is “logos,” and that word conveys what the dictionary calls “the distinct and superfinite Personality.” There are five different ways in which the Bible helps me know God, just as the written correspondence with my wife Cynthia enabled me to know her before we were in each other's physical presence.
1. THE BIBLE ALLOWS ME TO KNOW GOD IN A NON-GENDER WAY.
Our culture is obsessed with concerns about gender. Whether it is “#MeToo” or transgender or sexual identity, people today tend to couch everything in some sexual way. The Bible repeatedly presents God in a way that transcends sexual concerns. When Proverbs 8 finds wisdom challenging us, wisdom is presented in the feminine gender. When Jesus portrays God reaching out to Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 he portrays himself as a hen gathering her chicks. When Paul writes to the Galatians in Galatians 3:28 he says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
2. THE BIBLE ALLOWS ME TO KNOW GOD AS A
KIND, JUST, AND MERCIFUL BEING.
We have all been around men and women who radiated kindness and fairness. You cannot read the life of Christ and not see that he attracted people by his fairness, his mercy, and his kindness. When the woman in John 8:1-11 was caught in the act of adultery and brought to Jesus with the suggestion that she should be stoned, the response of Jesus was kind and fair. He confronted the accusers with the challenge, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus did not condone her sin, but his kindness and compassion radiated the attitude God has towards our struggles. The word “eleos” translated “mercy” in passages like Matthew 5:7; 9:13; 12:7; and James 5:11 is most accurately translated kind and benevolent. The Old Testament word “chesed” in Hebrew involves loving kindness but is translated “mercy” in our English translations. When we think we see God being unkind or unfair, it is always a situation where humans are ignoring God's purpose and reaping the consequences of what they have done. We tend to look selfishly at our own immediate gratification and not at the long term purpose of God when he does not act in the way we think he should, or when we think he should.
3. THE BIBLE USES DIFFERENT WORDS FOR
GOD TO ALLOW US TO UNDERSTAND THAT
GOD HAS AN INTEREST IN AND FUNCTIONS
IN ALL ASPECTS OF OUR LIVES.
One thing I learned as a public school teacher of science was that kids who had a father who was interested in them and in all aspects of their lives had a distinct advantage over kids whose fathers were disinterested or non-existent. When you dig into the different words used in the Bible for God, what you find is that each of those words was associated with a different part of human life. “Yahweh,” “Elohim,” “Adonai,” and a variety of less common names each conveyed God's involvement in an area of our lives. Translators struggled with this varied use. That is the reason we have “God,” “Lord,” “Jehovah,” “I Am,” “Father,” etc., used in different passages in the Old Testament. What this tells me is that God is a personal God, active and concerned with all aspects of my life. God is not some judge sitting in a judgment seat looking for ways to condemn me. He is an active, personal being who, as the Bible puts it, “… not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
4. THE BIBLE HELPS ME SEE GOD AS THE
CREATOR OF BEAUTY, POWER, WONDER,
Have you ever sat by yourself in a place of incredible beauty and thanked God for what he has prepared and allowed you to perceive? In scripture, we see people mesmerized by what surrounds them. Proverbs 8 reminds us that wisdom was involved in the creation process. Psalm 19 tells us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and skies proclaim the work of his hands.” David looks at his own body in Psalm 139:14 and expresses amazement at how God made him. Psalm 23 speaks of God's support for us in the trying times of life. Jesus calls his followers to reflect on the beauty of the lily, and Romans 1:18-23 tells us we can know God exists by seeing the design and complexity built into all that surrounds us.
One of the most delightful passages in the Bible is Job 38-41 where God unleashes a barrage of facts at Job and his friends. God challenges their attempts to explain things too complex for human understanding. Modern science is still investigating some of those things, but all of them speak of the beauty, power, wisdom, and design of God. This understanding brings me to the statement of David in Psalm 8:3-9: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them. You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you have put everything under their feet: … LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
5. THE BIBLE SHOWS ME THAT GOD HAS AN
ETERNAL PURPOSE IN ALL THAT HE DOES.
Isaiah 55:11 finds God saying, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Time after time the biblical record shows that the purpose God had for something was accomplished. It does not always happen in the way that God desired, but it happens. Like the Athenians of Acts 17, we frequently do not understand the spiritual purposes that God has for the things that happen, but the end result is always what God intended.
That is not just true of the biblical characters like the ones described in Hebrews 11. The Bible tells their success stories and their failures. How things worked out for them helps me to know God and to know that God has a purpose for my life just as he does for every human on the planet. The problem is that many of us do not allow God to accomplish his purpose. If that happens, God uses someone else to achieve that purpose. We are not just mindless robots programmed to a certain destiny. We are creatures who can love, and to love means to be able to choose not to love.
The beautiful exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-22 shows God's purpose in Peter's life. Jesus uses “agapao” asking Peter to be prepared for what is in front of him. Peter keeps responding with “phileo” indicating friendship but not a self-sacrificing love. God had a purpose for Peter, and we know that Paul was referred to as “a chosen instrument” in Acts 9:15. These men could choose not to accept the purpose for which Christ had called them. Paul expresses fear about that very fact in 1 Corinthians 9:27.
It is incredible to me that God has a purpose for my life. Like Paul, my past has opened the door to that purpose. I serve a God whose capacity to love and to lead me to something far better than I could ever do on my own propels me forward. Do not assume you are just a speck drifting aimlessly through space/time. You are a being created spiritually in the image of God, and God has great things planned for you. God is a God of purpose, and his will always gets done. I just want to be a small part of that purpose. As I get to know God better through his Word, my confidence in being with God in eternity grows — and yours will too.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.