For the past probably three, almost four years of my life, I have lived quite a lot. I mean… I was in college. I think a common thing that happens to people when they are in college is that they become independent, form personal beliefs, experience a whole host of emotions, and collect experiences that belong to only them and no one else. They start to become who they really are or want to be. They live, a lot.
Like any quality liberal-arts education, my college years led me to ask questions about why I believed anything at all. This thought-training came largely from the biology department. Why do I believe that DNA is the molecule of inheritance and blueprint for life? Why do I believe that there is actual protein being stained on this Western Blot? Why do I believe these cells were successfully transfected with the gene I wanted? The answers were always there. Experiments. Evidence. Controlling for outside factors. Logic. Proof. To argue that DNA is not the molecule of inheritance is to denounce logic itself and that humans are incapable of it. To argue that we are NOT made up of individual cells whose characteristics are determined by different patterns of gene expression from DNA is to believe that humans are incapable of believing and knowing anything true at all. (I mean, if you believe that, then I guess you can stop reading…) I know that sounds extreme, but I say this because there have been so many experiments and questions asked, with more experiments to answer them, that it's basically impossible to look at the evidence and conclude anything different.
Reality is that most humans believe we are capable of knowing and understanding the truth when it looks us in the face. Sometimes getting down to the truth is not all that easy, but nonetheless, when we find truth and stare it in the face, most of humanity believes that we are capable of realizing it. Much like the fact there is ground beneath our feet. To deny this simple fact would to deny that your mental awareness of something hard and sturdy under you is unreliable. People typically believe that certain things we experience are objectively real, like feeling the ground beneath us.
Knowing this and being acutely aware that things that are true withstand experiments and experience, I began to wonder why I believed the things I believed about God and Jesus. Who and what is God exactly? Why do I assume the things about him that I do? What must he be like if he were real? The funny thing about these questions is I had no laboratory or “textbook” to turn to. I had, well, myself. And I'm not talking about looking for the kind of answers stamped in culture or written in the Bible. It's more fundamental than that. If you believe the Bible has any warrant, you come to the table with a belief already in hand: God inspired the Bible and therefore it is truth. My question: why should I believe in the first place?
Over probably the last two years, I have realized I am not going to find an answer to this particular question.
You can imagine my frustration considering the training I have endured. No experiments, no textbooks, no wise sage could tell me why.
What is the reason why someone would believe in God, that is beyond a shadow of a doubt, that someone would have to denounce logic itself in order to disbelieve?
In asking the question, I found an answer for my heart.
The logical problem of evil is this in short: if God is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, how can evil exist in the world? And it follows that because there is evil, God must not exist. One of the core arguments in response to the logical problem of evil is given by Alvin Plantinga. He posits that a world where humans have free will is the greatest of all possible worlds, and therefore evil as a result of man is not inconsistent with the existence of God. This is huge to me, and when reminded of this cornerstone of “reasonable” belief in God, wisdom is revealed. If people have free will and are to choose God based upon faith, not from acceptance of the idea based upon obvious moral truths, arguments, and evidence, it makes sense that God’s wisdom and love, His presence, is not revealed in full until a person steps out in faith.
God will preserve our free will.
He will not reveal truth to those whose hearts are not willing and open to him.
My take-home from all of this is that God is faithful and true. I decided to step into His presence many years ago, and I thank him for covering me with his wings. But even with my wondering and questioning, He has proven true to the elemental properties of what little I can understand about him through philosophy and logic.
One of my favorite books thus far in my life is An Altar In The World by Barbara Brown Taylor.
She says, “In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.”
If you do not believe in God, there is nothing I can tell you that will make you believe. There is no logical or physical proof. It’s up to you. But I can tell you this: all God requires of you is faith, if you are willing to know if he is real.“What is really real? How do you know? Can you prove it? Even if Jacob could never find the exact place where the feet of that heavenly ladder came to earth--even if he could never find a single angel footprint in the sand--his life was changed for good.” -Barbara Brown Taylor, in An Altar In the World