By Ben Swift
Moses said to God, “Look, when I appear before the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God said to Moses, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be],” and added, “Here is what to say to the people of Israel: ‘Ehyeh [I Am or I Will Be] has sent me to you.’” God said further to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [Adonai], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation. (Exodus 3:13-15)
It is clear throughout God’s Word that we are not only to remember who He is, but also to immerse ourselves in what He has revealed to us concerning the truth about Himself. It is reasonable to suggest though, that dedicating one’s life to the study of the Word would be meaningless, if the God of the Bible doesn’t, in reality, exist. That is, the entire study of theology would be an extreme waste of time, if God is not who he claims to be. The presupposition of Christian theology must be that God exists. That does not mean God as an interesting philosophical idea or powerful, mysterious force, or God as described by other religions, but the god who refers to himself as, ‘Ehyeh [I am].’
A few years ago a well-known and respected Australian journalist, Mike Willesee, set out on a journey to investigate claims of miraculous events taking place in the lives of Catholic communities throughout various parts of the world. As he interviewed and filmed events such as unexplained stigmata on the hands of a woman named Catalina Rivas from Bolivia, he put together a series of documentaries titled, ‘Signs from God’. What’s interesting about these types of media investigations is that they claim to seek proof for the existence of God in questionable miracles such as weeping paintings or bleeding crucifixes, whilst blindly denying the incredible revelation of God that surrounds every one of us on a daily basis, not to mention the revelation of Christ himself.
Jesus makes an interesting statement in reference to unbelief in the presence of evidence. Take for example the following:
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:11-12)
While Christian theology argues that God has revealed himself to us in creation, his Word and through his Son, many people remain sceptical and demand evidence. The problem with these demands is that, as understood by reformed theology, only God can reveal God. The knowledge of God is therefore a gift from God, as His Holy Spirit works within us to reveal the truth concerning himself. James Packer, in The Lion Handbook on Christian Belief, suggests that ‘Christians are sure that God, in his sovereignty, ordained what is past, controls what is present and will shape everything that is to come. So for the present they will try to rest content not to know the how and the why of so much of God’s work, trusting that all their questions will receive a full answer one day. For, as Paul wrote, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”’
The reality of Christ as revealed to us in Scriptures, particularly in the Gospel accounts, runs counter to philosophical thought that seeks to deny objective reality and truth. Denial can be a powerful machine within the human mind and heart. In spite of God’s revelation and theological reasoning based on hard evidence, much of humanity still chooses to live in denial, that is, in ignorance of God’s truth.
Followers of Buddhism are a case in point. Not only do those who follow the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama [founder of Buddhism] deny God’s revelation, but they go to the extreme of denying the reality of personal existence at all. The teachings of Buddhism run much deeper than placing a statue of a Buddha in the courtyard garden of an extravagantly designed, commercially viable property. From a Buddhist perspective, Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, presents character traits that are stumbling blocks on the path to Nirvana [enlightenment]. ‘One of the striking things about the Gospels is that Jesus is deeply moved by so many things. He weeps at the death of a friend, he is outraged at the hypocrisies of the temple officials, and experiences fear and anguish at his impending death. Jesus’ emotions became an important point of theological reflection in early Christianity. From the Buddhist perspective, however, Jesus’ emotional reaction to his circumstances is completely at odds with the ideal taught by Siddhartha Gautama. Fear, anguish, anger, and so on, are the responses of someone captivated by ‘desire’. Detachment and tranquillity are the characteristics of the wise person, for the enlightened know that the Self does not exist and that dukkha (suffering) is only a creation of the ignorant striving after pleasure, existence and non-existence.’ (John Dickson)
Theologian Martin Luther, in his Small Catechism, emphasizes just how contrasting the denial of the Self is as expressed in ideas such as Buddhist teaching, when compared to the view of truth as held by the Christian. He writes, ‘I believe that God has created me together with all creatures, has given me body and soul, eyes, ears, and all body parts, reason and all the senses and still preserves [them].’
In his book, ‘Systematic Theology’, Louis Berkhof suggests that the Christian accepts the truth of the existence of God only by faith. This faith is not blind however, it is based on evidence which is primarily found in Scripture as the inspired Word of God. God can be seen on almost every page as he reveals himself in words and actions. But it is only by faith that we can accept the revelation of God and obtain real insight into the truth held within its pages.
What could be of greater importance then, than the free gift of the Holy Spirit, working within us to reveal God’s truth concerning who he is and his plans for a creation that most certainly exists?
And without trusting, it is impossible to be well pleasing to God, because whoever approaches Him must trust that He does exist and that He becomes a Rewarder to those who seek Him out. (Hebrews 11:6)