This seems like a fair question for someone to ask me: Why do you believe in God? Why do you believe in God in general, and the God of the Bible in particular?
The question is not: How did you come to believe in God? (which is the usual “Christian testimonial” kind of question.) The question is: what are your reasons?
I’m sure my answers will continue to change and grow over time, and I will update my reasons as they do. But as I sit here today thinking about this question, these are the answers that come to mind. I don’t put these out there as the only reasons or the best reasons or even good reasons. These are simply my reasons. Some of them I think are better than others, so if you can, stick with me until the end and see what you think.
Belief in God is practical. Perhaps not the most devout reason, but I’d be lying if I said this was not a reason – and a very valid one, too. Just for a moment, let’s set all other factors aside and say I want to prioritize my own self-interest and self-preservation. If I choose to believe in God, what’s in it for me? Let’s consider a chart cross-tabbing the possibility of God’s existence with belief. We get four possible outcomes:
God does not exist
|Believe in God||
Eternal life with God (Heaven)
Nothing happens after death
|Do not believe in God||
Eternal death apart from God (Hell)
Nothing happens after death
For those who don’t believe in God, the best case scenario allows them to live out this life however they want and then enter into nothingness once they die. However, if they are wrong and there is a God, they enter into the worst worst-case scenario. If there is a God, they spend a lifetime rejecting Him and an eternity apart from Him in a place known for “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28).
On the other hand, for those who do believe in God, even the worst case scenario isn’t all that bad. If people believe in God but He doesn’t actually exist, they spend a lifetime believing in Him – which may have both benefits and detriments depending on the situation. In the end, they just go into nothingness like everyone else when they die. However, if these believers are right and God does in fact exist, they have the opportunity to live eternally with Him.
Out of the four possible outcomes, the only possible chance any of us have of preserving our life is to believe in God. There are no other options. Given the choice to believe in God or not, believing in God is the practical choice.
(I had a friend point out that this is not a novel concept. Pascal’s Wager follows a similar thought pattern; I’m sure there are others, as well.)
I can think of no reason why we should have a concept of God unless there is in fact a God who gave us this concept. Some may argue that a lack of scientific understanding prompts people to believe in God as a last resort, but I see two problems with this. First, this argument often cites pagan or pantheistic religions that integrate the concept of God and the natural world in distorted ways, such as “sun gods” or “moon gods.” I challenge the reader to investigate the God of the Bible, which in fact does not run counter to the natural laws that we observe around us. Secondly, I think the argument that God is used just to explain what we don’t understand does not do justice to human intelligence. There are many things we do not understand that we do not automatically attribute to a deity. We just plain admit we don’t yet understand them.
To say we made up God simply because we couldn’t explain something is weak reasoning. Our concept of the Biblical God is intricately defined, and this detailed concept of God had to come from someplace. If we can’t point to a logical source here, then the logical conclusion is that it came from God himself.
Belief in God runs counter to evolutionary flow. This is directly related to the previous point that there are no reasons for us to believe in God unless there is actually a God to instill this idea within us. The God of the Bible demands works of charity, humbleness, and self-sacrifice – all traits that should have long ago been stamped out in competitive natural selection. The first cave man that ran into danger to save another rather than saving himself would have put an end to that particular gene pool. During an evolutionary process, belief in God should have been one of the first traits to disappear. And yet, belief in God still exists. People are still sacrificing their lives to tell others about the Biblical God. Thinking this up on our own just doesn’t make sense, unless there is in fact a God to give us the idea of Him.
Let me say this another way. I can maybe think of an evolutionary basis for thinking. I can maybe even think of an evolutionary basis for thinking about thinking. But I cannot for the life of me think of an evolutionary basis for thinking about God or thinking about thinking about God. And yet that is exactly what I’m doing right now. (Think about that three times real fast.)
I want to. This one worried me for a long time. After all, one of the arguments against belief in God is that belief is nothing more than the result of a psychological need. For years I thought wanting to believe in God just confirmed this argument. Now, I don’t think so.
Wanting to believe in God is not like wanting to have chicken for dinner. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to believe in God because I wanted to. Belief is both a process and a choice. God gave us free will so that we can choose to believe in Him or not. He will not force us. Sometimes we need to want to believe in God before we actually can believe in God. For me, the want comes first; the belief develops over time.
Belief in God has a historical record. I am not a historian. (Those who know me are laughing right now at the understatement in this.) But I know this much: the God of the Bible is a historical God, and the text of the Bible contains a historical record that can be validated by non-biblical texts and by archaeological and anthropological research. I have never studied source documents to compare them myself, nor have I read extensive commentary, though this is an area I do want to explore. What I do know is this: there are many brilliant people out there – both Christians and non-Christians – who are experts in this area. If the historical record of the Bible was found to be flawed, there would be such an outpouring of “The Bible is a scam!” that I’m quite sure I would know about it. This leads me to believe that the historical record is accurate. And if several hundred years of intricately detailed historical record includes the presence and activities of God and Jesus Christ, I see no reason why we should remove them. In my mind, attempts to remove God and Jesus Christ always leave inexplicable gaps that no amount of human reason can explain, while the complete historical record – including God and Jesus Christ – fits perfectly together. Why go through the hassle of trying to re-write history? If God and Jesus Christ make historical sense, it’s probably because they were there.
He exists. Ask me how I know, and I’ll ask you how you know anything exists. Much of science is indirect measurement; the object itself may never be directly studied, but we learn about it through the evidence it leaves behind. The same is true of God. I see the evidence of his existence all around me. This evidence is what some of these blog posts are all about.
Belief in the Biblical God makes intellectual sense. The more I study the God of the Bible, the more amazed I become. There is no better explanation for everything we see and touch and feel and think. The Bible explains the relationship between God and Jesus Christ and all of us in a manner that just plain makes sense – historically, scientifically, psychologically, theologically. Christianity answers questions I thought were unanswerable and explains concepts for which there is no other explanation.
It is a good choice. We have lots of choices in life, and sometimes we are stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” where we have two choices that look equally bleak. But believing in the God of the Bible is not like choosing the “least bad” option. I didn’t choose to believe in God because it was the best I could do; I chose to believe in God because it is a good choice. Sin separated us from God, but belief in Jesus Christ allows us to reconnect to a holy God in a way that would otherwise not be possible. I have experienced both years apart from God and years connected to God. I don’t know how else to say it: Being connected to God is the best possible good choice I have ever made.
It’s possible. Mathematical rules would state that there is a 50% probability that the God of the Bible exists, and a 50% probability that the God of the Bible does not exist. There are two choices; together they must sum to one. The choices are equally possible, but unlike the two sides of a coin often used in probability problems, only one option actually exists. Either the God of the Bible exists, or He does not. Either is possible; one is true. What you believe is up to you.
A word about doubt
Does all of this mean I never have doubts? No, of course not. I have lots of doubts. I have lots of unanswered questions. You’ll see this sometimes in my blog posts. But underneath that doubt there is a core of belief that I keep coming back to. At the end of the day, the reasons I believe in God outweigh the reasons I don’t. My mind likes to focus on the doubts – it’s easy to think about them and how very heavy they are – but when I look sincerely at the scales, the reasons for God always weigh more than the reasons against God.
I also find that the more I question God, the more He answers me. Faith for me is a process. I imagine it is for anyone. There are moments of confidence and moments of doubt. Moments of clarity and moments of utter confusion. But I have found that if I pursue God’s Word with sincerity – sincere interest, sincere doubt, sincere fear, sincere questions – that He continues to pull me back to Him. Some answers are quick and absolutely “in my face.” Some I struggle with for years. Some I will continue to struggle with for years to come. But I always find that on the far side of my doubts, I have a stronger faith than I did before. And sometimes believing in God means I trust Him – not instead of my doubts, but in spite of my doubts.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD (Jeremiah 29:13-14).