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September 07, 2006

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Interesting. I recently conversed with a commenter at Thinklings who had these same questions/frustrations and ultimately gave up and decided, basically, that the whole thing was a sham. That he couldn't have a relationship with someone he couldn't see or hear.

This person would say that he earnestly sought God for years, studied his Bible, begged and pleaded with God to make Himself known, to make His presence real, and all to no avail. I did not think it appropriate to question the sincerity of his years-long efforts and struggles. But it obviously complicates the "just have faith" and "just depend" issue.

What would you -- or anybody reading -- say to this guy?

I copied this from another page (http://www.rasmusen.org/_religion/Conceal.htm). How do you think it holds up as an analogy?

*****************

Daddy thought he'd see if his three-year-old twins, Billy and Joey, would behave if left to themselves, so he decided to hide and watch them. First, he told Billy, "Billy, I'm going to pretend I'm leaving the house and you won't see me, but I'll be there hiding and watching you, so be good." Then he went out the front door, snuck around the house, and came in the back door. Billy went upstairs and found Joey and said, "Joey, Daddy said he's here watching us but we can't see him."

"Don't tell lies, Billy. He's not here," said Joey.

"Yes he is. I find him."

"No he's not. I'll go everywhere there is, and you'll see."

And with that, the twins set out to search the house, one to find Daddy and one to show he wasn't home. As they searched, though, Daddy easily evaded them, moving out of one room as they searched it and into the next. Joey started crowing in triumph over his proof that Daddy wasn't there, and Daddy felt sorry for Billy, so he clapped his hands together to make a loud noise.

"I hear Daddy--- he *is* so here," said Billy.

"That's just some bird noise, that's not Daddy," said Joey.

And so they started hitting each other until Daddy came in and broke up the fight.

***************

It seems that if God wanted everyone to know of him, then they would. And if God wanted no one to know of him, then no one would. Or, if God wants some to know and others to not know, then some would know and others wouldn't know. Right?

This is a very difficult question, so I'm glad you all are asking it. I don't have the perfect answer for those who ask. I've tried the "faith" one and the "he's hiding because..." and the "look at all the evidence" and a combination of the three. Some people accept these, but most don't. At some points in my life, I haven't, either. So why do I believe now? --because I feel (yes, I see that is a fraught term here!) that God has made contact with me and is having an effect in my life, a relationship with me. How can I prove this? People can see that I've changed, and so can I. So how does someone who's not *me* convince themselves of God's existence? I don't know, but I would advise them to look, and tell them that no one can make the relationship happen, except for God and them. That's what I think right now (though I also think that some believers have shown me the presence of God through the witness of their life). And right now I also happen to be encountering some doubts, as a result of some painful events. But I still think that God exists, and I was just arguing with him last night about why he doesn't take action in some areas, and I think I saw some answers, which flashed into my mind either as a result of my thinking or of his communication--not sure which.

Anyone else have thoughts on this vital question?

Vicky

I agree completely with Les. I only like to point out that the concept of self-deception simply blows my mind. The concept of self-deception is simple. For example, according to the Bible, we know that God exists (through nature, law written on our hearts, etc.); however, because of sin, we deceive ourselves into believing God does not exist. So, in effect, I believe (deep down?) God exits, yet I also believe God doesn't exists. Think about it – deception usually involves two people: Person A knows a certain truth about a subject and then lies to Person B; Person B then believes the lie of Person A. However, with self-deception, there is only one person; we do the work of both Person A and B. Mind blowing, I tell you, simply mind blowing…!

Well, all three of these posts illustrate my basic point: there is surprisingly little concensus on the very nature of embracing "faith." But I also feel that I must not have communicated my fundamental premise very well. My point is to say that what needs to be questioned is my assumption of objectivity. I am NOT seeing as I ought. Quite the contrary, I regularly twist the truth into falsehood and fail to acknowledge God's undeniable presence.

So Jared, though you feel it "inappropriate" to question the sincerity of your friends life long searchings, the Bible does not. This isn't arrogance because we fully acknowledge that the Bible calls into question our own sincerity in our coming to Christ. He has not investigated the matter with the integrity that God commands. But isn't this the point of the Gospel? His personal investigating mechanism is flawed. Therefore, he should race to the King of the Universe and submit to his Lordship and his interpretation of his life (which, he will soon find out, submission is itself a gift).

This is why Keith, I find the story of hiding Dad to miss the point as well. God is decidedly NOT hiding. His Word never allows that possibility. If God is not hiding, and I can't find him, it must follow that I am not searching with integrity. This was all I intended to suggest.

Finally, Vicky...clearly the Apostle John affirms that God's Spirit can and does "bear witness with our spirit" that we are children of God. There is a tangible, experiential interpersonal "knowing" which the Bible describes the followers of Christ as having. However, it is a different question to ask, "How does someone convince themselves of God's existence." Funny that this question was posed to Father Abraham in Luke 16. When the rich man expresses concern as to the eternal state of his five brothers, Father Abraham says, "They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them." What if the Word of God is such a unique witness to the reality of God in the world, that it comes with its own power to convince the doubter. The rich man wants a dramatic resurrection of Lazarus, but he is assured (as we would expect Jesus to do) by Father Abraham that they will not repent "even if someone rises from the dead." Jesus is clearly thinking of his own resurrection and acknowledging that even that amazing evidence, employed countless times with mixed "success" in the book of Acts, is not enough to "convince" people that God is there.

The truth of the matter is that I believe because God opened my eyes through his Word to see something that I could/would not believe had he not.

thanks for reading jonathan! this is exactly what i was getting at...but then, you've heard this before...:)

He has not investigated the matter with the integrity that God commands.

I would absolutely agree with this.
In fact, one of the points I tried to make with him was that, despite however long he spent searching the Lord's voice in prayer and petition and church and the Bible, the fact that he ultimately gave up means his faith did not persevere. And, for me, faith that does not persevere is not faith.
He would argue, of course, that he had real faith, but gave it up. I would say if he had real faith, it would not have been lost.

It is difficult to say such things to a guy like that, not because I don't want to provide what I believe is accurate biblical counsel, but because I wish not to dishonor the hurt he was obviously sharing. Factor in, also, in this specific example the fact that he had been hiding same-sex attraction for years and years, even through a long marriage.

In his mind, he begged God to take away his interest and desires, believing them to be sin, and he really, honestly, truly tried to have a relationship with Jesus. It didn't "work" and he stopped believing.
I'm not saying he's right. I'm just saying sometimes the hard stuff of real lives isn't easy to answer.

I generally agree, although I suggest it might be wiser to acknowledge the underlying claim about the obscurity of God by affirming that the difference between God being hidden and us being in hiding is razor-thin when we aren't consciously aware of how we suppress the truth.
And faith does have an active element of trust, and not only a passive element of acknowledging dependence.
It would be better to turn the original hiding example around, and say that faith is that trust, that mental leap, involved in believing God that you are deceiving yourself and denying his presence, power, and authority, and taking his story as true instead.
In other words, I have to disbelieve my own eyes, and believe him that I am blind. I have to believe that someone I can't see can guide me and can see better than I can.

Alan, i hear what you're saying, however, i still believe that the phrasing here leads to faith as a work. That is not to say that you are exactly correct. Acknowledging dependence is the negative aspect of faith, but the positive aspect makes no sense without the first. It's much like (to use Horatius Bonar's example) the man who walks through the desert, exhausted. He mutters out loud, "I am too tired to stop walking." OR, it is like the starving man who is escorted into a room full of food. Hunger is the only qualification for eating, as exhaustion is the only requirement for resting. Only in this way, i believe, do we guard faith from turning into a work.

I am the person who Jared mentioned.

Does God hide or not? An objective look at mankind could only produce the obvious answer: Yes, he does hide. Otherwise he would make himself known. To Everyone. Apparently he’s more interested in “the story” than in redeeming everyone he has created.

Millions of non-Christians throughout history, the world over, have searched and not found him (according to biblical standards). If that weren’t true, there wouldn’t be so many “false” religions.

If the Bible’s claim that the display of creation itself is enough to inspire the search, so that “man is without excuse,” then why are there so many “false” religions? Are the members of these “false” religions finding God? They’re searching, aren’t they? And I would assert that they are searching sincerely!

I was a true Christian. I know you’re going to have to take that by “faith.” From my perspective, I was as sincere as I could be. As I said before, I repented and sought God continually.

I know that from a biblical perspective, the reason that I didn’t find him was because of a deficit on my part. Of course you’re going to assert that– your whole theology contends that God is holy, perfect, just, all-loving, merciful, etc. If there’s a problem with communication, it could only be my fault. I guess that’s why I reject the whole thing now. Sure, you could assume that I am deceiving myself. But if I am, I am unaware of it. And God is going to hold me accountable for something that I am truly not aware of?

I don’t know how many times I prayed “God, there just must be something that I’m not doing right here. Please show me what it is. I confess all of my sin; my idolatry, my envy, my sexual perversion, my lustful thoughts. Please show me what I’m doing wrong.” And I not only confessed, I repented– turning 180 degrees away from my sin and following him. If I wasn’t sincere, then God is not just.

He does hide. No one knows exactly why (or else we wouldn’t be having this discussion). If I am saved because of eternal security, then when I get to Heaven, the first thing I’m going to ask him is “Where WERE you?” If, instead, I am going to hell, then at least I will know that God is not as benevolent as all of you make him out to be. If he were, he would have saved me when I asked him to.

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