Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Proof for God (is not a syllogism)

"The Lord has made Himself known by the judgments He executes." Ps. 9:16a

Actions speak louder than words, and it is no small thing that we have an active God, a God desirous of activity. "Come unto Me and I will show you great and mighty things," He says (Jer. 33:3), almost like a dare, as if it were a matter of personal pride and honor. Of course, God can have no pride. His honor is absolute and His person perfect, so he has no need to prove Himself, and yet He calls on us to prove Him. "Prove Me now, and see" if I will not do and be all that I said I would and am (Mal. 3:10). It can almost be said (with careful reverence) that although God has no need to prove Himself, He still desires to do so, even to the point of sarcasm (Num. 11:23).

Still playing fair.
The real wonder, however, is not that God is active, or even that He desires to act. The real wonder is that He always acts rightly. "I will praise Thee, O Lord," says David. "I will be glad and rejoice in Thee." Why? Because: "You sit on Your throne judging right" (Ps. 9:1-4). If the fact that God actively reveals Himself is a great marvel, then here is one greater still: "He has prepared His throne for justice" (Ps. 9:7), justice in every way we can imagine---salvation for His people (vs. 4, 10, 13-14), deliverance for the poor and weak (vs. 9, 12, 18), and destruction for the wicked and oppressive (vs. 3, 5-6, 15-16, 17). Today, many rise to condemn Him, but one day none will rise to condemn, for all will see the justice and the righteousness of His judgments. One day we will see that whatever "game" God is playing, He has always played fair.

"Yea hath God said?"
If there were ever two truths that a Christian must believe, it is that God acts and acts rightly. And if there were ever two truths most often disparaged, it is the same two. Whether it is the "black box" conundrum or the "problem of evil," every skeptical attack or doubt comes along these lines: God has not done anything or God has not done anything right. Even Satan Himself comes this way. In Genesis, his attack on humanity was two-pronged: question what God said (Gen. 3:1), which is to question His actions; and call God a liar (Gen. 3:4-5), which is to question His goodness. Either God has not actually acted, through either non-existence or passivity, and we are all alone in our little world with our little lives; or God acts wrongly, being either evil or incompetent or both, and thus we are stuck with an all-powerful savage or idiot or both. Every accusation against God follows the logic of the Accuser himself: either God has not acted, or He has not acted right.

Seeing different.
I will not say it is a simple task to answer either attack (though many in and outside the Faith have done so). What I will say is this: God has revealed Himself to all in universal, inexcusable ways (Ps. 19:1-4; Is. 45:18-19; Rom.1:19-20; Heb. 1:1-2), but the deeper and deepest knowing of God is less general and far more intimate, i.e., God applying His truths and reality to the specifics of your individual life. There is a knowledge of God for those on the outside, but there is additional knowledge (or knowing) for those on the inside. This is not the "secret knowledge" of gnosticism but the intimate knowledge/knowing of love. Outside, your knowledge can be factual, logical, and reasonable (if not believable). Inside, your knowledge/knowing has included but also moved beyond those things to the experiential. Inside, you are no longer dealing with mere facts but rather the presence of a Person, a dynamic that is much harder to articulate in a syllogism. Those on the outside say, "We will hear thee again on this matter" (Acts 17:32). Those on the inside say, "We have seen God's glory" (John 1:14).

Again, this distinction is not meant to cast aspersions at those who are "outside." Rather, it is meant to create an understanding: you can know something by either facts or experience, or by facts leading to experience. I am simply saying that Christianity claims to be the latter. We have been told an incredible truth, and we believed the truth; but we have also moved beyond mere comprehension and belief into love and life. We found the truth to be a living truth, a living Person whose Life we experience in our own life. That is not easy to either explain or defend, but neither is love, and we are in love. God is known because He does, not because He argues, and He has done unto us and for us.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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