(I was asked to write out my reasons for believing in God. I imagine that the person asking the question was thinking more in terms of a rational, intellectual argument. But the following is what came out. I think I agree with a friend of mine who holds that belief in God is more contingent on the experiential than the rational. In other words, it is based more on our experience rather than detached thoughts in our mind. Really, I hope and think that my answer reflects a more holistic view. It was apparently from the Greeks that our western culture got the belief that thoughts and ideas are superior to and can be detached from the rest of us, our emotions, bodies and spirits. Dallas Willard said that what we feel to be true is what we really believe, despite what we might say. Subsequently, I think our intellectual arguments are often us attempting to justify and support what we already believe more than they are the reason for our belief. Therefore I hope that my answer is also more honest as well as holistic. One last note: people recognize that I’m quite knowledgeable regarding Christianity. While this is true, my response here demonstrates that there is an important and significant difference between knowing about something or someone, and really knowing them experientially.)
I grew up with Christianity. Unlike many, for our family this didn’t just mean going to church Sunday morning more often than not. It meant being at church Sunday morning no matter what, and likely Sunday evening and during the week sometime too. We read the bible, prayed, and talked about God and Jesus at home as well. Some people’s parents are into sports or music or business or whatever; my parents were into God and church and missions and such. I say this because I understand that my background influences my thinking even now.
People who grow up in this environment typically either embrace it or rebel. I’m not really the rebel type. But I did question it. A lot. Though I never completely rejected Christianity, I’ve been on a journey to figure out what I believe about it. Some of the primary messages church and my parents communicated were “don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t have sex”. But they also emphasized the importance of Jesus and reading the Bible. So I did. And what I discovered there often stood in contrast to what conservative evangelical Christianity is about. I realized this early on. But deciding what I believed to be true was a much longer process.
Christians say that God will provide for our needs and that he gives us joy and fulfills all our desires. Since I was a Christian, I believed this. Now I have a habit of acting on what I believe. So when things happened in life, such as the time I was unfairly fired from a job, I trusted that God would provide. But he didn’t. Or at least he didn’t seem to. Nor did I feel joyful or fulfilled.
So I questioned. Sometimes the whole story seems unbelievable. Do I really believe that some guy named Jesus is going to come back and fix things, even though he hasn’t after nearly 2000 years? And do I really believe in a good God who is involved in my life though I can’t tangibly sense him and haven’t seemed to experience him?
One time I was sitting outside at a campground questioning if their is a God. I looked at the sky and trees around me. Then it hit me. How could there not be a God? How could I account for all of this incredible world without God? I had a profound sense of the reality of God around me.
But I still wasn’t sure what God meant to me personally. That there is a God or higher power is one thing. However what type of god (or gods) they are is quite another question. Is he good? Is he personal? Is he near? Does he see me? Does he care? Does he have the power to help me?
There were times when God didn’t seem to provide as I had expected him to. I struggled to make sense of this. I believed in God, and I believed he is a good God. Many people who feel let down by God get mad at him. But I didn’t go this direction. It seems that the more common view in our culture is that God has the power to make anything happen at the snap of his fingers. So if something bad happens, it’s either because God made it happen or let it happen. I traveled the other direction. I believed that God was good. So if something bad happened, it was because he couldn’t make it better. The pain was either a result of what I did (not as punishment, but the natural results) or because God wouldn’t control other people. Or perhaps God was providing but others weren’t sharing. Or perhaps these details of my life weren’t important to God, even though they felt like a big deal to me.
These explanations didn’t make me feel much better. Whatever the reason was, I got the sense that I was basically on my own in life. Sure, God was there, but he didn’t seem to make a difference. I’d pray but I wouldn’t seem to receive from him. So I continued on with my life as best as I could—there’s no stopping the progression of time even when I want a break.
Still I hung on to God. I generally tried to live his way. In this way he made a difference in my life. Christianity is deeply interwoven into the person I am. Sometimes I was (and am) thankful for this. Sometimes I have regretted this, at least to a degree.
I have recently (in the past few months) been challenged to reconsider my position on God. Perhaps I didn’t give him enough of a chance. Perhaps I can trust him. Perhaps he does care about me, and perhaps he can make a difference in my life. Perhaps things in the past had really been for the better. And perhaps most of all, it would be better than not to believe that he is in control.
Though I feel I’m at the beginning of this process, I think I may be starting to receive more from Christ. I think I am beginning to see ways in which he is working in my life and answering my prayers. But it’s early and my faith and confidence are still weak. My story isn’t complete. In a way I’m thankful to be able to share this. When you’re in the middle of the process, it can be annoying that almost all of the stories which Christians share seem to be wrapped up nicely by the end. I believe that we will experience growth and breakthroughs. But this isn’t where we live most of our lives. Most of the time we’re some where in the middle of the process.
So I believe in God. I do so for rational, historical, and experiential reasons, as well as the witness of others. But what I believe about him and my relationship with him, two thing which are intrinsically tied together, are very much in process. Can I prove to you that there is a God? No. But I hope and pray we continue to experience more of him as we seek him together.