What made you convinced that God exists?
The first step was reading James Michener’s superb The Source at age 14 in '69, shortly after I began to be strongly influenced by the apocalyptic premillennialism of Armstrongism. For 30 odd… very odd years. They had the key to prophecy… That’s all been deconstructed over over 20 years. The emergent Church has nearly filled the gap with reconstruction.
Changes lives of people. Not just one, but testimony upon testimony given through history and still happening today; and God’s influence on my own life too now. God works on me in ways that I usually (but not always at the time) appreciate.
I became a Christian the way most people become part of any religion the world over–my parents taught it to me. I grew up believing in God, though I can recall at age 12 sitting in my garden after a long, hard introspection, and wondering if I truly believed in His existence. After all, there was nothing that reassured me of His presence in the way that my neighbors’ and family’s interaction did. When I tried to talk to Him in the darkness at night, I heard no answer, though I listened for it with hope, and then guilt, thinking I wasn’t hearing because I wasn’t listening hard enough (I based some of my thinking on a sermon I’d heard on Samuel as a boy listening hard for God’s voice, saying “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”). I still don’t have any hard evidence for His existence. I even see lots that contradicts it (the problem of evil, for example). However, I find that as life goes on, I need the concept of his existence for many things–to hope that someone cares for the poor, abused and lonely more than I do; and many other things. I need the concept of an ultimate Good to focus on, or I become like the dark I fear. I’m much like Puddleglum:
I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Narnia..
Before I started school my family attended a church about which I remember very little now. We probably sang “This Little Light of Mine” and other songs. I found out God was the creator of everything and there were places people who believed in Him went after they die, a good place or a bad place depending. But then we stopped going and the topic rarely came up. Every day on the way to school I’d open my little bag of fritos from my lunch and share it with Jesus - one for me, one over my shoulder for Jesus. Not quite a burnt offering but serving the same function perhaps.
But as I got older I fleshed out the kernel I’d been given by imagining when my life was over talking over my earthly moral choices with Jesus, a kind of post-mortal debrief. I imagined God as being lonely and needing/wanting company from those who’d learned to make choices which benefited others, for the good of us all. I never imagined it as following do’s and don’ts, but instead focusing on the needs of others.
But by the age of ten I was finding the idea of an afterlife untenable and God as a being something like an ancient, powerful person unlikely. So I just stopped believing any of it until my mid-twenties when I was reading many things looking for something that could give a human life significance. I read some Freud before preferring Jung which I found hard to penetrate. I remember watching the Hero With A Thousand Masks where Joseph Campbell was interviewed by Bill Moyers with interest. That led to looking at mythology psychologically, finally to the American former head of the Jungian Institute in Zurich, James Hillman, who finally made Jung’s ideas comprehensible for me. Hillman makes an interesting contrast between soul and the spiritual. I decided my natural inclination toward spiritual heights was essentially escapism. Listening to and redeeming soul is where it is at, not chanting Sanskrit words on mountain tops early in the morning. Hillman also made me realize that our naive intuition that our ego was the owner of everything in our subjective experience was not justifiable. There may not be a God ‘out there’ directing everything, but there sure is or can be one ‘in here’, alongside whatever it is I mean by ‘me’. More recently Iain McGIlchrist’s distinction between rational mind and intuitive mind has been helpful. It turns out to be quite rational not to allow the sense of control we feel by insisting always on rationality to render us one dimensional. The mind or psyche or soul goes much deeper than logic or rationality can go. We can either accept its gifts in faith or clamp down in the name of rationality and control.
So with all that I look again at what it is which has led to God belief and it seems to me its greatest good has been to elaborate a communal way for people to foster value in the something greater within us which transcends our deliberative conscious processes. What this is is first and foremost a mystery, but culturally we develop ways to approach the mystery and publicly acknowledge our high regard for it and dependence upon it.
The Christian way is as good as any other but better if it already serves this function of linking you to what is greater within. In matters of the soul, you can’t always insist that it behave rationally. We need to respect what it is and what it needs to form a good bond.
That will be 2 cents, please.
- As a physicist I have to ask myself as other physicists have asked themselves whether life as we experience really can be summed up in the mathematical equations of physics. My necessarily subjective conclusion, the same as many others, is that the very idea is absurd. Science puts our experience through the filter of mathematical glasses and to be sure this methodology has proven marvelously successful at not only explaining many things but discovering new things about the world that we never expected. But this is just looking at life in one particular way and I think it is quite foolish to confuse this way of looking at things with the reality itself.
- It was through existentialism that I made a connection that first gave some meaning to the word “God” for me (I was not raised in a religion unless it is the “religions” of liberalism and psychology). I came to the conclusion that the most fundamental existentialist faith was the faith that life was worth living. I also concluded that for theists their faith in God played the same role for them in their lives, suggesting that the two kinds of faith were really the same thing in different words. That equivalence basically became my working definition for “God”, and from there it was a matter of judging what understanding of God best served that purpose.
- Physicists experience shock and cognitive dissonance when they first understand what quantum physics is saying for it seems to contradict the logical premises of physics and scientific inquiry itself. But there is one thing that makes sense of it to me at least. If the universe was the creation of a deity who wanted keep his fingers in events then these facts of quantum physics would provide a back door in the laws of nature through which He could do so without disturbing the laws of nature. I am not saying that any such conclusion is necessitated by the scientific facts; only that on this subjective level where quantum physics created such cognitive dissonance for so many physicists, that this idea would make sense of it – to me
- I have considerable sympathy with the sentiments of the eastern mystics that logic is stultifying trap for human thought and consciousness. The result is that even if I found no other reasons to believe in a God or a spiritual side to reality and human existence I would very much see the need to fabricate them for the sake of our own liberty of thought. We need a belief in something transcendent in order for us transcend the limitations of logic and mundane (or material) reasons to give our uniquely human ability for abstraction more substance and life.
- I feel there are profound pragmatic reasons to reject the idea that reality is exclusively objective because it immediately takes any conviction about reality to a conclusion that the people who disagree with you are detached from reality and delusional or in some other way defective, I don’t believe that this is at all conducive to the values and ideals of a free society. The plain fact is that our direct contact with reality is wholly subjective and it is the objective which is the abstraction that has to be fabricated. Now I certainly think there is very good evidence that there is an objective aspect to reality but I see nothing to support taking this to the extreme of presuming that reality is exclusively objective.
Oh and the Narnia books did play some role of planting some seeds in my thinking growing up.
I was raised with spirituality in the picture. Around 10 or so christianity started influencing that spirituality. By 13 the main form of spirituality I came in contact with was Christianity and so I just naturally feel into belief. At around 16 I begin to really study the Bible. Probably 4+ hours a day 4 times a week until I was almost 19. Then the only prayer I have ever prayed that was answered in a way I can’t with good conscience reasonably explain away without the supernatural being involved happened at 19. That resulted in me studying the Bible about 4 hours everyday for a few months snd the final weeks was around 10 hours a day. It was in this time that I got baptized into a Christ and for the first time had real faith and real belief.
if you don’t mind me asking, how was the prayer answered. I would love to know (-:
I’ll try to give a short version, but it still requires a bit of backstory.
I left everyone I knew except a girl I was dating when I was 17 and moved thousands of miles away to an place I have never been. While living there, I begin to feel drawn back to God and was studying the Bible very deeply. For two years I never hung out with anyone except that girl and did not hang out with another guy outside of random short convos at work. Had zero friends in my life. I felt disfellowshipped and terrible. In was very depressed and not satisfied. By this time she and I was married snd she was pregnant. But I still felt very alone without any friends.
I told her how I was feeling and so I prayed that God would allow me to meet some other christian men, and while praying I thought about asking God for what I truly wanted and so I said Christian friends who knew more about the Bible than me, liked metal music and enjoyed working out. Then after my prayer I left and walked to a subway nearby and got a sandwich. While there in line I saw that the guy making the sandwiches talking to homeless woman that he was paying out of his own money to give her a sandwich. He also gave her a tiny Bible. I felt like God just answered my prayer, I just felt it.
But I was to shy and felt to awkward to just randomly be like I just prayed snd I think maybe you’re the answer. So I never said anything. I got my sandwich and walked back to my condo and told my wife what happened. She said that’s the quickest prayer every answered and I better go back down there. So I left and went back and saw that a girl had taken his place and I asked about the guy and mentioned the Bible and she said yeah that dude was josh. I asked when would he be back and she said actually his shift just ended and today was his last day. So I went back to my condo and told her a d felt like crap like I just spat on Gods help.
The next morning I woke up and left fairly early and drove to another part of town. While in line I heard someone , several guys, quoting the Bible and they were studying with someone. I felt that God had once again answered my prayer and so I thought as soon as I get my coffee I’ll go over. While in line there was some others in Starbucks that started mocking them and someone even threw a cup at coffee at them and told them to take their meeting elsewhere and it was lots of drama and that was all it took to make me lose confidence snd I knew I was spitting on God once again and felt so crappy but knew in my heart I was leaving nonetheless. As my hand touched the door to open it I heard someone running towards me yelling, “dude dude dude” and I had no idea what was happening and the guy literally grabbed the door as I was turning completely around and when I did I realized it was the same guy from the sandwich shop the day before. The first thing he said to me was that this will sound crazy but that he felt like he failed God yesterday when he did not reach out to me. That he felt like God wanted him to reach out to me and he did not and all night he felt like crap and was praying to God about it and when he just now saw me he knew God gave him another chance.
So we started studying the Bible together, me and the others , and Josh listened to metal and worked out and so did a few others and we would run together and work out listening to metal for the next several years. In those first few months of studying the Bible with them I realized just how fake my faith was up to that point snd how my life was not centered around Christ and that I just took what I was told about the Bible and did not really know the gospel. So I studied a lot and got baptized into Christ by Josh and Joe a few months after meeting them.
To me those events are far to many coincidences in such a short time on both sides to not have been something God was very much a part of. That whole event is part of what cemented by faith in God indefinitely.
that is such an amazing story. I really want to have a personal experience with God, but sadly haven’t. Did anyone tell Josh that you had actually been looking for him?
No. No one told him.
In my case, the way towards Jesus progressed stepwise. As a schoolboy, I wondered if God existed. I asked for a sign: if the temperature is a particular number the next morning I look at the thermometer, that is a sign for me. For some reason, that happened, temperature was exactly what I had asked.
Although I believed in God after that, later my life started to drift away from what is good. During my first study year in university, there was a period when believers popped in my life asking if I believe. They promised to pray for me. I wrestled with the question of who is the boss in my life for some time. My image of what would happen if I would surrender to the will of God was a bit unrealistic. I assumed that God would immediately send me to some place where I would not like to go and I would suffer there for the rest of my life. When I finally got the grace to say ‘yes’, I noted that this kind of imagination was very far from reality.
After that, I participated some years in the activities of a small church. During those years, I witnessed some wonders. Especially during a short period in a place where people did not have as easily modern healthcare available. Some persons, both Christians and non-Christians, were healed while someone prayed. A women who was deaf or almost deaf, a man with an injured hand, some other cases. In these conditions, there was no documentation of the miracles but the people had lived in small villages their whole life and their surrounding (mainly non-Christians) knew very well their life before and after the healing. What was striking, was the change that happened in the lives of those who received healing. Non-Christians believed and started to tell to their relatives and other people in the area what Jesus had done in their life – a new life with very different habits. These wonders and other answers to prayers confirmed to me that God is real.
After those years I have lived a less active life, work has taken much of my time. During these less active years, there has not been great miracles or so much ‘yes’ answers to prayers. Yet, I have noted that in critical moments of life, God has always taken care and arranged critical things that I could not myself do. For these reasons, I put my trust in God.
That is an amazing story, thank you so much for sharing (-:
Thanks. It’s an important one to me. I often hear people always talking about these crazy amazing things they’ve seen and have had happened. But got me its still one of the most important things to ever happen to me and let me know that he is really looking out for me. That out of billions of people over thousands and thousands of years he still felt the desire to reach out to me in that moment. Something personal and something that I don’t just read about that happened thousands of years ago. Almost everything else in my life I can reasonably explain away with just science and chance but for me it’s not possible with this. Whenever I feel like I’m alone and nothing is working and everything is sucking and that I’m on the verge of just exploding I mediate on this experience and the psalms and proverbs and know that I just have to keep pursing his righteousness and his kingdom.
Hello there, my friend!
For me, the convincing is a conversation on a day-to-day basis. Some days are better than others. I have my doubts and I have my fears. But in the end, the fire burns. I often pray, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And when I pray that prayer, I do believe, and I also believe that He will help me. And He has helped me. The rains and winds have beaten on the house of my faith. But the house stands. It stands because, I believe, science affords the possibility of God. It stands because I believe that something happened long ago in a small place on this Earth, something amazing that changed things forever, and that the testimony of the New Testament is enough to believe in that something amazing. It stands because of the small miracles I have seen in my life, the answered prayers that defy, in my opinion, mere logical explanation or coincidence, because many of my answered prayers are so specific that generalizations or statistics simply don’t account for them. And then there is the person of Jesus. Even if there were no miracles that I could count in my subjective experience, no reasoning or deduction or strong testimony, there would be Jesus. Marvelous. Beautiful. Amazing. Loving. Just. Good. True.
I was raised Christian–in a sense. My biological mother and father were not married, nor were they together. My mother was not a very strong Christian, and my step-father was a Celtic pagan. On the flip side, my father was a conservative Christian, and I got a lot of strong, specifically conservative, Christian influence from my paternal grandmother. I inherited the Christianity of my father and my grandmother. But my faith is not theirs. It is mine. It is mine, because I have reflected on it, and I have fought for it, and I have reasoned and struggled with it, and, above all else, believed in it.
And Jesus is mine. The Maker of the vast, unfathomable cosmos, so transcendent and yet completely personal, the God who reaches down to have a relationship with insignificant primates on an insignificant speck of dust careening through space–and yet, not so insignificant, because God made us, and we have significance to Him. And that is a beautiful thing. And that God, that Maker, is mine. And to anyone reading this, if He is not yours, I tell you now that He can be. And you can be His.
I have not found any satisfaction in my exploration of other religious beliefs or in materialism. In fact, satisfaction exists the least, in my view, in the hard materialism of so many. Existentialism as an antidote to Nihilism is, I have found, hollow. It is Christianity, or it is Nihilism. And I love Christianity. Not the conservative Christianity of my father and late grandmother, or the Christianity of American culture. No, the Christianity that is spoken of by Jesus and the New Testament writers. The Christianity that has brought so many people of so many backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and nations to their knees in worship and in awe, and with a newfound desire to love and to serve.
And by God’s grace, by His actions and His tender mercies, I believe what I love, and not Nihilism. And I am better for it. The world is better for it. I am capable of great horrors. But by the power of God’s Holy Spirit I am a mightier force for His Kingdom, for the Good, the True, the Beautiful, and for the betterment of others in this world, and for this world.
This is my faith, and the faith of my beloved wife, and I hope to pass it onto my children.
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