Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 

Belief in a higher power has been common among men throughout history. One reason is because the evidence is so strong. Indeed, the great seventeenth century scientist, Rene Descartes, believed there was more proof for Godís existence than for anything else, for he said,

If there are finally any persons who are not sufficiently persuaded of the existence of God and of their soul by the reasons which I have brought forward, I wish that they should know that all other things of which they perhaps think themselves more assured (such as possessing a body, and that there are stars and an earth and so on) are less certain.
Why is the truth of God not obvious?

But if the existence of a higher power is so obvious, why is it so hard to know the truth about that higher power? Why has there always been great confusion and disagreement about who or what that power is? Consider the sun in the sky. It is very far away, yet is there any man so blind that he does not believe in the sun? Now, God is far more powerful than the sun, and he certainly could make himself obvious to us. Yet, in his infinite wisdom, he has chosen to keep himself invisible. King Solomon spoke about this when he said, "The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12), meaning invisible to us. But why does he keep himself invisible, dwelling in what is for us "thick darkness" so that we cannot see him. One reason is because our sins have alienated him; for he once walked on earth with Man. Now we must search just to know about him. One time, while he was preaching to the men of Athens, the apostle Paul said:

The God who made the world and everything in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in man-made temples; nor is he served by human hands needing something. He gives to all life, and breath, and all things. And he made from one every nation of men living on all the face of the earth (having fixed assigned periods of time, and the limits of their occupancy) to search for God, because, you may indeed be sure, we also grope for him to find him, although he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live, and move, and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said. For we are also his offspring. Therefore, being the offspring of God, we must not think that the divine is like gold, silver, or stone handiwork of the skill and imagination of man. So then, the times of ignorance God overlooked. Now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has appointed a day during which he will judge mankind with justice by the man whom he has ordained, having presented proof to all men by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:24-31). Notice Paul said we were created "...to search for God, because, you may indeed be sure, we also grope for him to find him, although he is not far from each one of us..." I also found a few other scriptures emphasizing Godís desire for us to search for him: ...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)

The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God (Psalm 14:2)

For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Searching for knowledge

People debate about God, but on this everyone will surely agree: From the time we are born into this troubled world truth is something we must struggle to obtain. Knowledge is nourishment for our mind just as food is nourishment for our body, and both are essential for life. Thus, not only must we work to eat, we must struggle to learn. We must sweat for the "bread" which nourishes our minds, as well as our bodies. Moreover, not only must each individual work and struggle to acquire personal knowledge, but society needs specialists to discover new knowledge. Scientists must perform research, often enduring long hours of hard labor, in order to acquire new knowledge about the natural world. It is not an easy endeavor. They often debate among themselves about the meaning of things they find. And even when they agree upon explanations and new discoveries, they cannot rest for long because the world is a dynamic, changing place. Manís understanding of the world constantly needs revising because of new discoveries and changes in the world. It is foolish to cling blindly to scientific theories and explanations of centuries past. Now of course, the fundamental nature of the world does not change, and our core knowledge of it will never change. It is folly and madness to cast away all old knowledge. The sun will always rise (in our perception) each day; non-pressurized water will always boil at a high temperature; living animals will always bleed when they are cut. These are unchanging facts of nature. Yes, our scientific knowledge is based upon a foundation of well established, fundamental facts of nature. However, mankind is constantly (but very cautiously) adding new insights about the nature of the world. And a growing society will constantly develop new applications of that knowledge. The progress and survival of mankind demands that we not only continue to gain a clearer understanding of the world, but that we continue to seek ways to apply this knowledge most effectively. Failing to do so creates stag nation.

In the same way, God requires that we struggle to learn about him and his will for us. Quoting Moses, Jesus said, "It is written, ĎMan shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Godí" (Deuteronomy 8:3 & Matthew 4:4). Thus, we must sweat for the nourishment essential for our spiritual lives. Each of us must work and struggle to acquire knowledge about God and his will for us. Moreover, scholars must perform research, often enduring long hours of hard labor, in order to discover new insights and truths about the Word of God. It is not an easy endeavor. They often debate among themselves about the meaning of things they find. And even when things become clearer, they cannot rest for long because the world is a dynamic, changing place. Our understanding of God and his Word constantly need revising because of new discoveries and changes in the world. It is foolish to cling blindly to the explanations and interpretations about God of centuries past. Now of course, the fundamental nature of Godís Word does not change, and our core knowledge of it will never change. It is folly and madness to cast away all of our past knowledge. God will always exist; murder and homosexuality will always be sins; Christ and his Church will always be the only way to eternal life. These are unchanging spiritual truths. Our knowledge of God and his Word is based upon a foundation of these well established, fundamental truths. However, we should be constantly (but very cautiously) adding new insights about God and his Word. And we should constantly be developing new applications of this knowledge. Our spiritual progress and survival demands that we continue to gain a clearer understanding of Godís Word, and that we continue to seek ways to apply this knowledge most effectively. Failing to do so creates stagnation.

Searching for the words of God

Consider the Word of God itself. I wonder how many countless billions of man-hours have been spent studying the Bible. Yet, there is widespread misunderstanding about the very nature of that great book. Someone years ago coined the expression "the inerrant Word of God". Inerrant means infallible, or incapable of error, or in other words, perfect. Now in one sense the Word of God is truly inerrant, but the Bibles we use are not perfect books. The words in them are not perfect words. They are only symbols of the truth of God. The fact is the truth of God is conceptual, not something material you can point to; just as the kingdom of God is not something material you can point to (John 18:36). There is nothing of this world that is perfect, including our Bibles. It is misleading to say the books we call Bibles are inerrant. For the Word of God itself claims otherwise, as I will show you. Now truly, the Word of God is a very precious treasure; indeed, it is the most precious treasure of all. Yet our brother Paul wrote: "...we have this treasure in earthen vessels..." (2 Corinthians 4:7). This precious treasure of the Word of God is "in earthen vessels", meaning it is found in an imperfect container. Yes, truly the Word of God is inerrant, but like everything else in this world, our Bibles are not.

If anyone claims his Bible is inerrant, I would ask him which Bible he has? The vast majority of the Bibles people use are translations from the original Hebrew and Greek languages. None of these translations are infallible. Some are certainly closer to the real truth of Godís Word than others, but none can claim perfection. Even those who read the Bible in its original Hebrew and Greek words cannot claim they are reading an infallible book. For none of the original words exist, and the most ancient copies which have survived do not all perfectly agree. This is not to diminish the authenticity of our Bibles. In fact, those ancient manuscripts agree in a truly remarkable degree, but not perfectly. And so Bible scholars continue to work, seeking to verify all of the original words written by the hands of those men who were guided by the Holy Spirit of God to give mankind his Holy Book. Moreover, even though the vast majority of the words of Holy Scripture are verified as authentic, the message within those words is not always clear. How clear they are depends partially upon the maturity of the reader. Only a few of the words make much sense to a young child. Even an educated adult who is unacquainted with the Bible will find many of them unclear. Not one man on earth can honestly claim to understand them all. And so, like secular scientists and scholars who search for the meaning and laws of our material world, Bible scholars continue to search for the meaning and laws of our spiritual world. In this way mankind continually searches for God and his truth. No generation can rest on its laurels and claim complete victory, because each generation faces new challenges.

Why bother to search?

How important is all of this? Everyone knows that scientific knowledge about our world is enormously relevant to our living. It is exceedingly important to distinguish between what is true and factual, versus what is not, because truth is crucial for our survival and development. Our very lives are at stake. It is deadly to make light of the importance of distinguishing what is factual and what is not. Would you go to a physician who was not serious about adhering to strict truth in medical affairs, and whose only interest was in making you feel good for the moment? Would you hire an architect who was casual and frivolous about the laws of physics when designing your house? Would you purchase food from a store whose owner insisted on the right to sell every kind of food, without regard to which ones may contain toxic substances? How healthy would any society be whose citizens lived that way? Would that society not be very polluted? Would it not experience many terrible disasters, and be filled with many sick people? Yet, in the even more vital spiritual realm people today think nothing about entrusting their spiritual health to pastors who are not serious about adhering strictly to Godís truth, and whose only interest is in making them feel good for the moment. Alas, most people today willingly accept the advice of men who are casual and frivolous about Godís spiritual laws. They happily shop in stores whose owners insist on the right to sell all kinds of garbage, filth, and poison for their minds.

It is no mystery why our lands are so polluted with evil! The light of Godís Word has made it all so abundantly clear to me. And so my heart groans when I see the lies of the Devil filling the airways, and pouring from the presses into the hearts of the people. It is environmental pollution of the very worst kind. And those disciples of the Devil who profiteer from it rant and rave against any effort to clean it up. As long as these predators can keep the people blind, the people will continue to be preyed upon by them, and the list of innocent victims will continue to grow. If only people would turn to God their eyes would be opened. He alone is our hope and our salvation. He is willing to forgive us, and to heal us, but he will never do it unless we humble ourselves, and commit our lives to searching for him, and obeying him. Our Lord and our Savior, Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). But let no man think that asking with mere words is what the Son of God meant. As long as we live upon this earth we are under the curse of pain in labor. It is our duty to work hard, by the sweat of our brow, to "ask", and to "seek", and to "knock" upon Godís door for his help. And our Heavenly Father has promised that if we persevere in that endeavor, then he will answer us. We will find more of him and his truth. He will open his door to us. For the creator of this vast universe can do anything, and he will do anything to help us if we submit ourselves to him and his ways. Notice these tender (but firm) words of God written by his faithful servant Isaiah:

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 1:18-20). The prophet Jeremiah once described what kind of nation the ancient Israelites had degenerated into: Let every one beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother; for every brother is a supplanter, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Every one deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, says the LORD (Jeremiah 9:4-6). The prophet Isaiah once asked his countrymen: "Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the LORD and relies upon his God?" (Isaiah 50:10). When most Americans, in times past, trusted in the name of the LORD, and relied upon God, then good prevailed. People could walk the streets at night without fear. They could even leave their houses unlocked (ask the aged about those days). Our economy and our social institutions were the envy of the world. But now, when most Americans no longer trust in the name of the Lord, and rely upon God, evil prevails. People fear one another. Hatred and division is growing. We are sinking in debt. Our social institutions are collapsing. Is all of this sheer coincidence? "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).

"To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:17).



FOOTNOTES:
1.Discourse On The Method Of Rightly Conducting The Reason And Seeking For Truth In The Sciences: Part IV.
 

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


Top of Page