Saturday, October 30, 2004

How to believe in God

An atheist once visited a well known rabbi and demanded that the rabbi prove to him the existence of God. In silence, the rabbi refused…and the atheist got up to leave, in anger. But as he left the rabbi called out, ‘But can you be sure there is no God?’ The atheist wrote, years later, ‘I am still an atheist, but that question has haunted me every day of my life.’

Such is the soul hunger of the intellectuals who would believe in God, if only someone could overwhelmingly convince them; if only someone could demonstrate the undeniable truth of God...

The great thinker Gotthold Ephraim Lessing saw a large gap between miracles and the claim of Jesus as the Son of God. In his mind, even if he granted the existence of miracles, he still could not grant the higher class [claim] of Jesus as God and Savior. The past drew a curtain over the historical reality of Jesus, beyond which he could not go. He wrote:
That, then, is the ugly, broad ditch which I cannot get across, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make the leap. If anyone can help me over it, let him do it, I beg him, I adjure him. He will deserve a divine reward from me.

What pain in his voice! What honesty of heart!

Basically Lessing is asking the same thing that the atheist asked the rabbi: ‘Can you prove God to me?’ ‘Can you prove to me the Son of God?’

It is a heartrending question. Can any answer be found?

I believe there is a simple answer. Not an easy answer, mind you, but one at once clear and profound: so simple a child could follow it, yet so hard that few adults will take the path.

Two great thinkers, and two great believers, Pascal and Dosteovsky, both wrestled with this question. And, though separated by vast years and contexts, both came up with the same answer. There is much logic behind this answer [in the case of Pascal] and much life behind it [in the case of Dosteovsky], but the answer can be given in one sentence. Here is the answer:

If you would like to know if God exists, then begin living your life exactly as you would live it if you knew God existed.

That is what I would have told the atheist, had I been the rabbi.

That is what I would have told Lessing, had I been alive to hear him.

There is only one way across the ‘ugly ditch’ that Lessing saw. And that is the undeniable relational encounter with the God of the universe. In other words, the answer to the atheist, and the answer to Lessing, is not first an intellectual answer, but a relational one.

Do you want to believe in God?

Then begin living toward God. At some point, the lived prayer will bring such overpowering light that the universe will be seen for what it is, morally, spiritually, and yes, intellectually!

There is great logic behind this simple answer. There is compelling reason.

If you are one of the searchers, or know someone searching, who would like to explore the reasoning behind this solution, then email me, and I will gladly dialogue.

But this is the answer, without any of the math behind it.

I sensed that I should write it tonight. May God bless it to someone’s life.

In Grace,

Loy

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Small thought here. I live as though I know there is a God even though I am an atheist. That is because to me, there is no difference. God's existance, in my books, is irrelevant. I assume that your answer means "you are to live your life, independantly of what religious texts say, but only with a belief in God." otherwise your answer is quite impossible to carry out as what religion whould you choose? Because of this, I believe this means I am an agnostic, ie: Someone who just doesn't give a care in the world.

Thanks for letting me comment, Remy.

Loy Mershimer said...

Hi Remy,

Thanks for commenting, and your comments are always welcome here.

Per the substance of your thought, there is lot there. More, perhaps, than I can do justice to in a single post.

However, let me offer a book to you, which speaks to the heart of your question. Os Guinness has written a book Long Journey Home, which is apt for this issue. Much wisdom in this book, and maybe it can help you on the journey. I warmly recommend it to you, as a seeker.

Also, just let me say briefly that religion can often be a stumbling block to knowledge of God.

Religion can obscure the very presence of God. Even when Jesus sat beside the well with the Samaritan woman, her stumblingblock to His presence was a question of religion: "On which mountain should I worship?" she asked. "Here [in Gerazim] or in Jerusalem?"

Jesus answered something to the effect that places of religion would pass away, but relation to Him was the door to eternal life and truth: relating to God in spirit and truth was what mattered.

Truly I tell you," He said to the woman, "the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."

"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming"(who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things."

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."


So, Remy, I encourage you on your journey, but also pray that you will see beyond the questions of religion to the questions of relation!

A bit of a paradox, I know, but such is the nature of truth...

God bless your journey, and feel free to contact me anytime via email or blog. Btw, if you want my email, just click on my profile page, ok?

Again, God bless your journey and have a good night!

in Christ,

Loy

Anonymous said...

hi loy!

I see that you posted this site in 2004, so there may be chance you might not get this. i have some questions for you that I would feel better about emailing. if your interested...my email addy is hinallc@yahoo.com. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I would e-mail you, if I knew what it was...

Loy said...

Hi!

If you want to email me, it's just my name @ gmail.com

loymershimer [at] gmail.com

God bless,

Loy
p.s. I may not be able to reply right away, but I will eventually! :-)

Anonymous said...

"Such is the soul hunger of the intellectuals who would believe in God, if only someone could overwhelmingly convince them; if only someone could demonstrate the undeniable truth of God..."

Wow - that's me.

I feel I'm at a spiritual crisis and need to believe in God, but my heart and mind don't feel like there is one. Yes, it's just as possible that God exists as that he does not, but I can't escape the suspicion that God is just a powerful meme - that we need him so much that we irrationally convince ourselves that he exists. Well, I need him, but I can't make myself believe something I don't think is true.

In my search for spiritual guidance, I've come across a lot of writing that I cannot take seriously. It was beginning to make me depressed, until I came across this posting. Loy, thanks for stating it in such a nice way.

"If you would like to know if God exists, then begin living your life exactly as you would live it if you knew God existed." - I will take this to heart and do so.

Thanks Loy! -- CP

Loy said...

Hi CP!

Of course, you are welcome... and thank you for your honesty and kind words.

A quick point: such a brief post addressing such a colossal issue really risks caricature -- but such risks must be taken, as surely as a map is only a caricature of the real thing, but necessary at times.

As you live toward the answer though, such brief sign will give way to substance, the real thing... and I'll always be willing to dialogue, too!

Along the way, spend time with the masters, those who walked from non-belief to belief -- read the Gospel of John and the Jesus dialogues therein; read Dostoevsky's Brother's Karamazov [in the Norton Critical Edition]; read C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength and Till We Have Faces; read The Prayers of Kierkegaard edited by Perry LeFevre; read Knowing the Heart of God and Discovering the Character of God by George MacDonald [edited by Michael Phillips]... these are a few readings from deep souls who struggled through to high light, and some of these will touch your soul in spiritual kinship and light.

Anyway, thanks again for your words, CP, and have a blessed day!

yours in Christ,

Loy

Anonymous said...

Loy,

This is a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing this. It's a good starting point for those of us who want to believe, but have trouble doing so.

Loy said...

Thank you, Anonymous!

You are right that it is just a beginning, just a starting point. The fuller answer is much more... but here is the open door.

God bless you on your journey!

Loy

Wayne said...

"I feel I'm at a spiritual crisis and need to believe in God, but my heart and mind don't feel like there is one. Yes, it's just as possible that God exists as that he does not, but I can't escape the suspicion that God is just a powerful meme - that we need him so much that we irrationally convince ourselves that he exists. Well, I need him, but I can't make myself believe something I don't think is true."

I can relate whole heartedly.

I would love nothing else than to receive the Holy Ghost and have my eyes and heart open to the joys of Christ, but I fear that I'm tormented in such that I am so uncomfortable when it comes to God and believing, accepting, that I get angry at myself for even trying, and resentful towards those who pick it up easily and can express it daily. I'm jealous. I want what those people have, but I can't seem to get past the foolishness and embarrassment I feel when I try, nor the nagging insistence that it is all fake and I shouldn't "buy into it", and that I should be smarter than that... more open-minded. I felt out of place in church... uncomfortable, foolish and lost, even with close friends nearby. I would look around at other people, those praying and worshiping, and I would begin to feel nervous and tingly... then dumb for being there in the first place around so many "blinded idiots". I didn't want to feel that way, but it just came out. I would judge these people around me as weak, gullible, and even fraudulent, so blindly basing their lives on something I didn't... couldn't... believe. If I couldn't believe, how could they? Do they really? Are they faking it? Is it just something they have done for so long and routinely it's like taking a shower; useful on the outside, but no real meaning? Are they naive? Ignorant? Pressured?

My doubts hinder me, and I don't know how to let go of my doubts. For everything I read or hear that supports the existence of God and why you should believe, there are 10 otheres that support the absence of God and why you shouldn't.

I found this page after watching Ian McCormick's near death experience. And as powerful as that was, I eventually found myself wondering if his story is fake... or his experience was completely delusional. Those thoughts immediately stripped away the value and power of his story for me... and has yet again dulled my views of God.

Loy said...

Thanks for your comments, Wayne. I'm sorry I'm just now getting to a reply -- today is my first full day back from youth camp.

There's a lot you've raised, but I'll just respond to one issue right now: the personal aspect of relation to God.

It seems one barrier for you is other people. You want to feel what they evidently feel, and don't -- and that leaves you empty, questioning them and yourself [and the concept of God].

Your hermeneutic is horizontal: what other humans write, experience and say becomes for you the arbiter of truth after being passed through the grid of your own mind, experience and intuition. This horizontal and self-focused hermeneutic is basis for your judgment of the vertical God-concept.

I would encourage you to a different hermeneutic: one of vertical relation to God and obedience to that relation/revelation. Then, you will find the light to judge horizontal relations. Not to mention understanding the morass of human doubts, speculation and religious claims.

Your own doubt is not a bad thing. In fact, it can become the vehicle to high faith...

God bless you, Wayne!

Have a wonderful day and talk with you more, hopefully.