Why We Believe – Encounter With God

Peter Eng

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Most people believe there is a God. The atheists make a lot of noise and make it seem as though more and more people are becoming atheists. Christian alarmists help spread this misconception. The claim is that as we become more educated, and richer, we need God less and become atheists.  There is little truth to this unless we choose to twist the data to fit the theory. 

America remains the richest country in the world and in the Gallup Poll of as recent as 2011, only 3% are convinced there is no God. Free societies tend to believe in God. Perhaps the only exception is Scandinavia. Repressive societies that persecute people of faith tend to score higher in atheism.  In short, when people are left on their own, they tend to believe in God.  When people are forced to reject God, they tend to do so for a brief period, but belief in God tends to come back.  We see the resurgence of religion in the former Soviet Union and in China after the de facto failure of such coercion under the atheistic cult of communism.

At the same time, society continues to delight in denying God.  That is to say, a person may reply in a poll that they believe in a God of some sort, but when they meet a Christian, they will begin a series of arguments as though they don’t believe in God. There is a perception that the clever people question the existence of God, and so to push the envelope on faith, they sound like atheists when they are really not.

If we modify the question of the Gallup poll to include all religious beliefs, (e.g. Buddhism that does not believe in a God), and ask “Do you believe there is a God or a supernatural world apart from the natural order of things?” I believe Singaporeans are as religious as Americans!

I think we need to understand that the voices against the existence of God are so strident because there are so few of them.  The reality is that they need to explain why we innately believe in God.  Why do people everywhere, of all cultures and all languages believe in God, or gods, or in the unseen supernatural world?

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Let’s look at evolution that struggles to explain the God phenomenon.  Why do animals not express the capacity of spiritual connection as humans do?  And within human evolution, what survival advantage do we have when we believe in God?  In fact, if I believe in a God who holds me accountable to a set of moral imperatives, and I compete against you and you have no such restrictions, the logical conclusion is that I lose and you win. Since the belief in God is so damaging to our ability to compete successfully against another human being, there is no evolutionary advantage to believe in God, and consequently, all who believe in God should have lost out in competition. 

Instead, we find the opposite to be true.  We believe in God even when it is not in our competitive or evolutionary interest to do so. Further, those who believe in God should have lost out and the “God” gene should have been bred out of existence.

It is self-evident that human beings have an innate belief in God regardless of how the atheist might want to explain why this innate belief exists.

Even though we engage in discussion about the existence of God, the reality for most people is that faith in God comes through an encounter with God. 

The rational basis for faith is important to some.  But for many, there is a short cut to arrive at the truth.  Let me illustrate. 

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Let’s say you are in the market to buy a car.  On the other hand, I am trying to give out the new Toyota IQ for free. I sing the praises of my car to you. How do you test my claim? You can do a lot of research or you can simply test drive mine to see if you want a free Toyota IQ.  Your test drive encounter with the car is not an irrational approach to check out the car.  It is not the technical approach, but it is the encounter approach, and in most instances, it is the most sensible approach (unless you suspect that the free car I offer you might blow up.)

We believe the Christian faith to be a reasonable faith, and we are fully able to hold our own on such a discussion.  But the goal we have is not to argue the merit of our faith. Some, but very few, will actually share in the blessings of faith in Jesus Christ through such discourse.  The discourse usually opens the way for a person to truly encounter Jesus, but the discourse itself is usually not the means to faith.

If I were to give you the Toyota IQ for free, my objective is not to beat you down intellectually or show how much I know about cars so that eventually, you will sign a document saying that I am right and you are wrong. What good would that do? It would only serve to boost my ego to put you down.

Similarly, when a Christian explains questions of faith to someone who is pre-faith, our goal is not to win the argument.  Our goal is simply to say, “This faith is perfectly good.  Take it as your own and encounter it. Enjoy it. Live it.”

As we learn about “Reason for God” and we minister to many who are in need, we are equipping ourselves with reason for faith, but we also invite people to encounter God in Jesus Christ.

Reason for God is important because it affirms our faith, and we equip ourselves to reach people who have questions about God. But we must never forget that most people come to Jesus through an encounter with him. No different from how we come to faith. We sort-of believe, or believe the virtues of it, take the first tentative steps and find out that God is so good and so real.

Blessings!

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