This week's question comes from Kevin who's been struggling with the existence of God. He writes, "What if the bible is just a book and who is God anyway? .That makes no earthly sense. You see lately I've had real problems accepting a real 'God.'"
These are just two related comments from a much longer e-mail that speaks of the struggle of understanding evil in the world, many doubts, and the wonderment of it all. Kevin's questions are ageless and they're quite common. How can we sure the Bible is authoritative and that God even exists?
Let's begin by taking the opposite side of the coin-let's suppose there is no God. Let's for a moment, imagine the Bible is just a book and that God is a human construct. Let's assume there is no absolute right or wrong, except the rights and wrongs imposed by a majority of each society. Suppose there is nothing after this life-that the worms and the microbes have their way with our bodies and at our death all consciousness ends. Let's pretend we're nothing more than a quirk of happenstance and chance-or even luck.
I can hear John Lennon singing, "Imagine all the people, living life in peace."
Really? Is that what we'd have? If there is no God, then there would be no absolutes and the only difference between us and any other animal on this planet is that humans apparently have higher learning capabilities. But, with the exception of the consequences imposed by society, there would be no moral code. So, if society decided slavery of all blue-eyed people was okay, then it is okay. We blue-eyed people might be inconvenienced, but it wouldn't be wrong. And in countries where women are seen as nothing more than property, then it would be okay to do whatever you deemed appropriate to your property, including abandoning it, discarding it, or euthanasing it when you're done with it. That would be okay. And if one nation wants your land and/or your resources and they declare war, invade, and shoot at you, well, there's nothing wrong with that. It might be inconvenient, but it's not wrong because their society deems it okay.
I'm not sure we'd be living a life of peace.
Then there's the question about the Bible. What if the Bible was only a book?
I have to admit that sometimes this one baffles me. The vast majority of Christians I know treat the Bible as if it were holy, rather than God who is holy alone (Revelation 15.4. Also see Romans 1.25 to read Paul's warning about worshiping the created rather than the Creator). The fact is, the Bible is just a book. It's a very special book, but it is a book, nonetheless. It isn't the Word of God-Jesus was that (John 1.14). It contains the revelation of God, though Jesus was more fully God's revelation (Luke 2.32, John 14.9).
What the Bible is is the story of our relationship with God and God's relationship with us. The Bible can't prove God exists, any more than science can prove that God doesn't exist. What the Bible does record is the stories of the lives of men and women who were touched by God in one way or another. It records their experiences, their triumphs, their failures, and how they turned to God, or away from God, in those times. But the Bible is just a book-but one that has affected literally millions of people who have read it and have been inspired to get connected with a God they've discovered for themselves is real.
Which brings us to Kevin's final quandary-doubting the existence of God. Doubt is a healthy thing. It keeps us from assuming a lot of false information. It keeps us searching for both facts and for truth. Doubt is the opposite side of the coin of faith-without doubt, there can be no faith.
I agree that sometimes it is hard to accept the existence of a god who allows evil to exist. Until I remember that the only way to eliminate all evil is to eliminate choice. And I wouldn't choose to be an automaton for anyone.not even for a god. And besides, God desires our loyalty, devotion, and love because we choose to, not because we're "hard-wired" to be loyal, devoted, and loving. When God created humanity, God created "his" children and he gave us the greatest gift of all-the gift of choice. We have the choice to love or to hate, to do good and to do evil. It is up to each of us as individuals to do what is right (and make no mistakes about it, there is right and wrong that supercedes all societies' and their own mores).
I can't prove God exists, but I know for sure God is real and that God's a part of my life because I talked to him this afternoon.