A Reasoning Faith — Lesson 2
Can God be Known?
Since it seems evident that there is a God and since I consider myself an intelligent being, I must next ask: Is it possible to know Him? I cannot conceive of an intelligent man making anything without a purpose. If he makes shoes, they are to wear or sell; if he bakes bread, it is for himself or someone else to eat. Behind every action there is a motive. Doesn't it seem quite reasonable that God can be known and that He should have a purpose in view for His creation?
I know of two ways by which one can know God as a person and learn of His purpose for our life. First there is the process of reason. Just as a good detective can tell you many things about my skill, habits and character by examining something I may have made or handled, so, can one learn much about God by a careful examination of the universe, the work of His hands. But the detective who examines only what I make can never say that he knows me. He has learned things about me, but before he can say that he knows me, there must be a process of revelation: I must communicate with him. I must tell him what I think, how I feel and what I want to do. This self-revelation may be in conversation, in writing, or in some other means of communication. Only then does it become possible for this detective to know me. If God is ever to be known and His thoughts, desires and purposes known, He must take the initiative and make at least a partial revelation of Himself to men. The second way to know God and His purpose for life is through the study of His Word, the Bible.
The Bible claims to be a direct revelation from God, telling us of Himself and His purpose in us. It is a book of such importance that it is surely worthy of thoughtful investigation. So with the advice of Francis Bacon neither to accept nor reject, but to weigh and consider, lets approach this book with its unusual claims.
Many attacks have been made on the accuracy of the Bible. In recent years, however, archaeologists and others have rallied to the defense of this ancient book. One of the greatest archaeologists is Dr. William F. Albright, who emphatically states after years of study and research,
"Biblical historical data are accurate to an extent far surpassing the ideas of any modern critical students, who have consistently tended to err on the side of hypercriticism."
Another important voice raised in defense of the accuracy of the Bible is that of the late Dr. Robert Dick Wilson, a qualified scholar who made himself at home in some forty-five languages and dialects so that he could properly investigate the charges made against the Bible. After years of painstaking research, Dr. Wilson had this to say concerning the Old Testament in which he had a particular interest:
"The literary forms are in harmony with what comparative literature would lead us to expect. The civil, criminal and constitutional laws agree with what the civilization of the ancient nations surrounding Palestine would presuppose; while the ceremonial, moral and religious laws are differentiated from those of others by their genesis in a monotheistic belief and a divine revelation. The general correctness of the Hebrew text that has been transmitted to us is established beyond just grounds of controversy. The morphology, syntax, and meaning of the language of the various books conform with what the face of the document demands. The chronological and geographical statements are more accurate and reliable than those afforded by any other ancient documents; and the biographical and other historical narratives harmonize marvelously with the evidence afforded by extra-Biblical documents. We need not and do not fear the truth about the Bible."
Just as a judge must not make his decision when the case is half-heard, neither should we. But, like the judge, we should compare the evidence of the witnesses, and weigh and consider every word. Surely the importance of its claim justifies spending the necessary time on the study of its sixty-six books, written by at least forty different writers. Some writers were well educated, some barely educated, some kings, some peasants-writing over a period of 1600 years in places separated as far as Babylon in Asia, and Rome in Europe. With such authorship one would expect to find a heterogeneous collection of contradictory statements. Its unity is therefore especially striking, for each contribution complements the others.
In consideration of these facts, I became certain of the truth of II Peter 1:21. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." There was no other reasonable explanation. My belief was confirmed as I read prophecy after prophecy in the Old Testament, that found fulfillment, even to the letter, hundreds of years later. Isaiah 53 foretold the death of Christ with minute accuracy, more than 700 years before His crucifixion. Yes, the difficulties in doubting the Book seemed to me greater than those in believing it. I had to be honest with myself, and admit that the problems were all on the side of unbelief. I even went further, and said,
"I believe the Bible to be the Word of the living God. I can account for it in no other way. "
A Serious Difficulty
That admission brought me face to face with a rather serious difficulty. The Bible not only set a standard of righteousness that I had not attained, it pronounced that anything short of this standard was sin.
Remembering that God knows my every thought, and measuring myself by that standard, I found myself wanting.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37,38).
Confronted with such a standard, can you claim to have lived up to it throughout your life. I couldn't. Have you put God first in everything? No man can honestly make that claim. Every honest heart echoes Romans 3:10 and 23:
"There is none righteous, no, not one. . . All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
All have failed to reach God's standard.
The Implications Of A Broken Law
My honest admission that I had fallen short, that I had broken God's law, led me into further difficulties. This path of honesty lead through a dark cloud, a cloud of condemnation, but it proved to be the shortest way to the light on the other side.
The reasoning that lead to the realization of my guilt and condemnation before God is similar to the following example.
The law in England says that all drivers must keep to the left side of the street, while in New York the rule of the road demands that a driver keep to the right side. Now suppose I go driving in London and keep to the right side.
On being brought before the judge, I say,
"This is ridiculous. In the United States we are allowed to drive on the right side."
"You are not being judged by the laws of America," he replied.
"It doesn't matter what the laws of other lands may be, you should have concerned yourself only with the laws which judge you here, where you are."
On my admission of having sinned, and broken God's law came God's condemnation of me in Ezekiel 18:4, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Then, as far as God's standards were concerned, and as God's standard was the only one by which I was to be judged in eternity, I was lost.
I began to see that it did not matter what I thought, or what my friends told me; the judgment would be on what God had said, not on what my friends say. Furthermore, because in God's judgment we had all sinned, there was no use in looking to other men for help. They were under the same condemnation as I.
Have you faced the fact that you have broken the laws by which you are to be judged and that you too are lost? Strange as it may seem this is the first step in the road that leads through the dark cloud of condemnation and its penalty of death to a realization that I can have peace with God.