Posted 30 Oct 2018
What would “make” you believe in God?
Many people say that if they saw God in front of them, they would believe in Him. But would they really?
Some people claim that if God did a miracle in front of their eyes, then they’d believe in Him. But would they really?
I wonder if that is really the case. If you think about it, and imagine that God actually does do a miracle right in front of your eyes, how would you respond? Isn’t it most likely that you would consider the event in light of what you ALREADY believe? We seek to make sense of phenomena in light of what we already hold to be true. We are invested in our beliefs – what we ALREADY believe. In the case of an unbeliever (in God) I wonder if that person would see the miracle made by God, and then try to immediately rationalise the event, in accordance with their existing beliefs, i.e., the event would have happened anyway, God was not involved; it wasn’t a miracle of God, it just looked like that; there is a perfectly rational explanation for what I just saw, etc, etc. The world view of the atheist doesn’t allow for God, so why would a miracle be ascribed TO God? Much more likely that the atheist would ascribe a miracle to something they can already accept: be that the ebb & flow of a complex universe; some hitherto unknown, but perfectly natural phenomenon; an hallucination or other mental event, which looked like a miracle, but was just some temporary aberration of the mind. An unbeliever would be unlikely to “allow” a miracle wrought by God to shake their already firm conviction that there is no God.
For the theist (believer in God) it wouldn’t be hard to ascribe a miracle to the hand of God, since their world view already accepts the existence of God.
I’ll look at 1 Corinthians 22 “The Jews look for miraculous signs…” later on, but for now, consider the thought that the Jews alive in Jesus’ day actually SAW Him perform many, may miracles, and yet they still did not believe He was the Son of God. That’s why I think miracles don’t automatically produce belief in God. Somehow we are capable of actually seeing a miracle, right before our eyes (as the Jews did), yet we are quite capable of explaining it away, and refusing to believe it, or in the God who makes it happen. That occurred in Jesus’ day, and I’m pretty sure it would occur today too!
Albert Einstein and miracles.
Albert Einstein (the German-born theoretical physicist) said “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
That’s an interesting view when you think about it, since the subject (the material world) is EXACTLY the same in either stance! If you don’t believe in miracles then you will view the world as purely natural, with no supernatural, miraculous component possible; if you hold the view that miracles do exist (& do come from God) then you will believe in both the material, natural, observable universe, and also the unseen, supernatural world too.
Another way to view Einstein’s statement is through the lens of WONDER.
A person who accepts the miraculous, and they view many/most/all things as being a miracle, would probably view the universe with a sense of wonder, and childlike delight. That will probably end up generating a sense of thankfulness – for the theist, towards God, for the atheist… towards whom, or what?!
If a persons stance is that “nothing is a miracle”, they may still have that sense of wonder, and childlike delight, but they won’t ascribe anything they encounter to a miracle or being of a miraculous origin, which might exclude God from their world view as well. Without the recognition that anything is miraculous, it would be possible to downplay or remove a sense of wonder along with that atheistic world view, though that is not necessarily the stance of the person with the “nothing is a miracle” view point. It might mean they still have a sense of wonder, they just wouldn’t direct it towards God in thankfulness. Perhaps something else takes the place of God as the focus for thankfulness: the universe, Gaia, something more material, or physically present?
What fascinates me is the idea that one can view exactly the same things (the universe, stars, planets, the earth, materials, animals, plants, relationships, family, loved ones, events, etc) as being EITHER miraculous, or non-miraculous – opposite views, of exactly the same things!
And that idea (of viewing the same thing from two opposite and exclusive view points) accounts for the reason that many of the arguments/evidences for the existence of God are EXACTLY THE SAME arguments used by people who are trying to prove the non-existence of God! The facts that anyone can marshal, which in their mind prove the existence of God, can be used for the exact opposite view: the non-existance of God.
That’s why I don’t enter into debates about creation versus evolution any more, because all the facts proposed for one side of the argument can be used for the other side too! So what’s the point of arguing?!
In the end, it all boils down not to facts, but to INTERPRETATION of facts: we use facts to support our already formulated world view. People who want to believe in the theory of macro evolution, the big bang (origin of the universe) theory, who don’t ascribe anything to the miraculous or supernatural, etc – ie people who don’t want their to be a God, use the facts we know to support, embed and entrench their beliefs. On the other hand, people who believe in a supreme being (God), creation by a Creator, the miraculous, the supernatural, use the same facts to support their view, in exactly the same way!
This leads me to believe that facts are essentially useless to us, for the purpose of “proving” one world view, or the other. Somehow we have already formulated a world view, and we merely use facts, after the event, to support and entrench that view.
I’m not sure where our world view stems from though. Perhaps it comes into being as very young people, when we are trying to understand our selves and our environment? Perhaps the events of our very early life give us a disposition towards belief (theism) or unbelief (atheism)?
Of course, from my theist (Christian, believer in God) world view point, I believe that God Himself provides the faith I need to believe in Him. I view that faith as a gift from God, inserted into my heart and mind, which allows me to believe that God exists. That raises the question: does everybody get the gift of faith? If not, why not? If so, why doesn’t everybody believe in God? The answer probably stems from freedom of choice. The Bible tells us that God gives us a will; the ability to choose for ourselves, what we will believe. So whilst we may all be given faith to believe, not everyone will exercise that faith to believe in God Himself. Theists choose to believe in God, whilst Atheists choose not to believe in God – it’s still faith, just a faith choice not to believe in God!
There is a very interesting passage in the Bible which is all about this very topic. The Message version of the Bible is brilliant at describing the interaction of world views, and the difference between God’s wisdom and man’s…
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (MSG)
18 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out.
19 It’s written,
I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots. 
20 So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? 21 Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
22 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, 23 we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. 24 But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. 25 Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
26 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. 27 Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, 28 chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? 29 That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. 30 Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. 31 That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”
Verse 22 is interesting, “While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom”. That explains two well known stances of people: the Jewish view, and the Greek view.
The Jews look for miraculous signs in order to believe someone is from God. But even though Jesus produced many, many miraculous signs right before their eyes, they still refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. As I concluded earlier, “seeing is believing” is not true; we believe in the origin of something regardless of what we actually see!
The Greek view is to look towards reason, understanding, philosophical wisdom, in order to make sens of the world. The Greek view is very pervasive today, and has been for many centuries. It tends towards elevating the human mind and understanding things to the highest position.
Neither of these views (the Jewish clamor for signs, nor the Greek philosophical wisdom stance) brings anyone to believe in God. And the following verses explain why: the Jewish need for miracles doesn’t engender belief – it looks for signs, but won’t accept the signs, even if they happen right before one’s eyes! Seeing miracles doesn’t automatically cause a person to believe in God.
And the wisdom of God (expressed as the apostle Paul wrote, in preaching Christ crucified) seems silly and absurd to the rational, human-centric Greek world view. People want to “do it for themselves”; find their own solution; solve their own problems. In one sense that is admirable: seeking to help yourself. There is a time and a place for effort exerted in that direction, to solve many of our daily difficulties. But when it comes to our ULTIMATE NEED: the restoration of ourselves and our souls and our spirits, we simply can’t fix ourselves – we don’t have the tools for that job! The Old Testament explains that the Law and the sacrifice of animals for the removal of sin, is an imperfect system, that had to be repeated over and over again. And in the end it proved ineffective at permanent sin removal. What was needed was a perfect High priest and a perfect sacrifice, which would take away the sins of the whole world, once and for all. That’s why Jesus the Christ (Messiah) came to earth, to provide that sinless, perfect sacrifice, once and for all, so that our sin problem could be dealt with, forever. And that’s the amazing thing that Jesus achieved on the cross. He died in our place, as our sacrifice, to remove our sins forever. He was sinless, so that sin and death (the ultimate consequence of sin in our lives) was defeated. In fact, sin and death could not hold on to Jesus, thus was he resurrected to bodily life, three days after his crucifixion. His resurrection is evidence that sin and death were defeated. And the Bible sates in many different ways, that if anyone believes in Jesus and confesses Jesus with their words, they will be saved…
Romans 10:9-10 (ANIV)
9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
The Bible tells us that we need a Saviour: someone who can take away our sins, and restore our right relationship with our Heavenly Father. Greek-type thinkers, Atheists, and even believers who can’t accept their troubled state, and need for a Saviour, will always try to fix the problem themselves. Hence the growth in self-help books, yoga, Buddism (and all other religions except Christianity), Scientology, Philosophy, modern theories about the origin of the universe, life on earth, macro-evolution, etc, etc – all these are man’s attempt to fix the underlying problem. But we simply can not fix our problem! Sooner or later many people come to realise that… having tried umpteenth other ways of being and thinking and doing, they eventually grind to a halt, recognising that they are simply unable to get out of the hole they are in. That’s when “love comes to town” as the rock band U2 sang! When we come to the end of ourselves, and all our efforts to fix our real issue(s) prove inadequate, then we are ready to accept the help that has always been offered to us: Jesus our Saviour is ready to step in and give us what we need.
God help us all to recognise our need, and to have the humility to accept help from our loving Heavenly father, before it is too late. And yes, if we don’t accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, and we die in our sinful state, then it is too late. There is only one way to go from that point onwards, and that way is to Hell: which is permanent separation from God. We do not experience that here on earth, since the earth is under “common grace”; the power and provision of God, so it is difficult to imagine a place where that grace is not offered. But Hell is real, and an eternity there would be absolutely horrible. Fortunately our sins CAN be atoned for, and we can escape that doom. But there is only ONE way to do that, and that is do what it say in Romans 10:9, “confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
1 Corinthians 01 – Two Roads
This scene from 1 Corinthians clearly shows that there are only 2 possible routes we can take when we die physically here on earth. One is heavenward and the other is towards Hell. Which way we go is our choice, and ours alone. God allows us to make up our own minds about where we will go. He hopes we will choose His way , but He has to provide an alternative (Hell) so that we truly do have complete freedom of choice about where we will spend eternity. That freedom to choose is amazing really. God could have made us into robots that simply follow His orders, but He wanted free thinking individuals, who He allows to make up their own minds. It’s an awesome responsibility, but it is fully OUR responsibility, where we go after we die.
2 Peter 3:9 (ANIV)
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
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