Category Archives: God Questions

Questions about God: Does God Have Emotions?

 

We can cite numerous passages of Scripture that speak to God’s emotions. For example, God demonstrated the following:

  • Anger—Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 9:22; Romans 1:18
  • Laughter—Psalm 37:13; Psalm 2:4; Proverbs 1:26
  • Compassion—Psalm 135:14; Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 32:36
  • Grief—Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10
  • Love–1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3
  • Hate—Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5
  • Jealousy—Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Joshua 24:19
  • Joy—Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41

However, are God’s emotions the same kind of emotions we humans exhibit? Is it right to think of Him as “emotional” (does He have mood swings)? In theological circles, personhood is often defined as “the state of being an individual with intellect, emotion, and volition.” God, then, is a “person” in that He is a personal God with a mind, emotions, and a will of His own. To deny God’s emotions is to deny that He possesses personality.

Humans respond to things in this world physically, of course, but we also respond spiritually—our souls react, and this is what we call “emotion.” The fact of human emotion is one proof that God has emotions, as well, for He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27). Another proof is the Incarnation. As the Son of God in this world, Jesus was not an emotionless automaton. He felt what we feel, weeping with those who wept (John 11:35), feeling compassion for the multitudes (Mark 6:34), and being overcome with sorrow (Matthew 26:38). Through it all, He revealed the Father to us (John 14:9).

Though God is transcendent, we’ve come know Him as a personal, living God who engages intimately with His creation. He loves us in ways we cannot fathom (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:3–8; 8:35, 38–39), and He is immeasurably pained by our sin and rebellion against Him (Psalm 1:5; 5:4–5; Proverbs 6:16–19).

We recognize that the demonstration of emotions does not alter the immutability or permanence of God’s will or His promises. In other words, God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29); He has no mood swings. God’s feelings and actions toward His creation, His judgment and forgiveness, His justice and grace, are all consistent with who He is (James 1:17). God’s responses to good and evil come from His same immutable will. God wills to judge and punish the sinner in order to bring about justice and, correspondingly, to bring the sinner to repentance because He desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). We’ve come to know and relate to God as a feeling Person, one who loves and hates, grieves and laughs, feels anger and compassion. He loves the righteous and hates the wicked (Psalm 11:5–7; 5:4–5; 21:8).

This isn’t to say that our emotions and those of God are exactly the same. We sometimes speak of our emotions “clouding our judgment” because our sinful nature has corrupted our emotions. But God has no sin, and His emotions are incorruptible. For example, there is a vast difference between human anger and divine anger. Man’s anger is volatile, subjective, and too often out of control (Proverbs 14:29; 15:18; James 1:20). God’s anger is rooted in divine justice. God’s anger is perfectly righteous and predictable, never capricious or malicious. In His anger, He never sins.

All of God’s emotions are rooted in His holy nature and are always expressed sinlessly. God’s compassion, sorrow, and joy are all perfect expressions of the Perfect Being. Jesus’ anger at the synagogue leaders in Mark 3:5 and His love for the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 were perfectly motivated responses of His divine nature.

God’s ways have been recorded for us in terms that we can understand and relate to. God’s wrath and anger against sin are real (Proverbs 8:13; 15:9). And His compassion for sinners is steadfast and genuine (2 Peter 3:9; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 30:18). His works reveal His mercy and unending grace. But most of all, His love for His children is endless (Jeremiah 31:3) and unshakable (Romans 8:35, 38–39). God not only has thoughts and plans; He has feelings and desires, too. In contrast to the unreliability and instability of man’s sin-tainted emotions, God’s emotions are as completely dependable and immutable as He.

There are two wonderful things concerning God and emotions: first, He understands our emotions (since He created us with the capacity to feel them), and, second, His own emotions continually flow from His perfection. God will never have a bad day; He will never change His feelings toward His redeemed.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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Questions about God: If God Is Omnipresent, Does that Mean God Is in Hell?

 

God’s omnipresence is one of His essential attributes. His justice is also essential, and, therefore, it is necessary for Him to punish sinners who do not trust in Jesus for salvation. Thus, we have a God who is referred to as everywhere present yet who maintains a place called hell, described as a place where people are removed from His presence (see Matthew 25:41).

Three passages are particularly important to this discussion. First is Psalm 139:7–12, in which David says, “Where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Sheol is simply a transliteration of a Hebrew noun that means “the grave” or “the place of the dead.” Sheol is a broad term and is not synonymous with hell, the word commonly used to refer to the eternal place of punishment.

Second Thessalonians 1:7–9 says that those who do not know God “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (emphasis added). Yet Revelation 14:10 says that any who worship the antichrist “will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (emphasis added). These two verses are by far the most confusing on this topic because of their apparent contradiction. Even so, there is a rather simple explanation found in the original Greek.

In Revelation 14:10, “presence” is a literal translation of the Greek enopion, which means “in the presence of, before.” This is a spatial word, suggesting proximity and literal, measurable distances. In contrast, the word translated “presence” in 2 Thessalonians is prosopon, which most commonly refers to a person’s face or outward appearance. Paul appears to have taken this verbiage directly from Isaiah 2:10 as found in the Septuagint. There are other references to God and His people being “separated,” even on earth. Jesus’ cry of agony on the cross is one example (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Theologian Dr. Louis Berkhof teaches that Paul refers to “a total absence of the favor of God.” This description of hell would present a more exact opposite to heaven. Heaven provides blessing and wholeness not through being closer spatially to God, but by being in complete fellowship with Him. Hell is associated with a complete lack of blessing due to the severing of any fellowship with God.

Ultimately, it appears that God is indeed “present” in hell, or hell is in His presence, depending on how one looks at it. God is and will forever be omnipresent. He will forever know what is happening in hell. However, this fact does not mean that the souls imprisoned there will have a relationship with God or any communication with Him.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: How Can I Believe in the Goodness of God When There Is so Much Evil in the World?

 

The evil in the world did not come from God. If Adam and Eve had only obeyed God, then they may have lived on earth forever, walking with God, tending the garden, working together—what might God’s “Plan A” have been? After they sinned, the created ones were just not on the same page with God anymore. God cannot tolerate sin and has no sin within Himself, so mankind hid from God in guilt and fear. One could perhaps blame Adam and Eve for the evil in the world, as they blamed each other and the serpent; however, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is safe to say that, had we been in the garden instead of Adam and Eve, we would have sinned in the same way.

God is good in that He has a plan to redeem fallen mankind. The salvation Jesus provides attests to His goodness and love (Romans 5:8). The effect of the Fall is universal, but so also is the offer of divine grace (John 3:16). The Bible clearly indicates the devastating effects of sin upon man and the hopelessness of man in solving his own sin problem. The proper understanding of the doctrine of sin is essential to understanding God’s remedy for it.

God is good in that He has sent His Son “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus called Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), which means Satan has been allowed a certain amount of authority over this earth. The blame for the evil in this world should be placed squarely upon Satan. Much is written about the devil—he comes only to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He is a fierce enemy (1 Peter 5:8). He is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for us (Revelation 5:6). He is the truth and the life (John 14:6). Jesus is the “seed of the woman” to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is Goodness incarnate.

God is good in that He is implementing a plan to rid the universe of evil once and for all. He is the God of justice, and He will one day make all things right (Psalm 89:14; Revelation 21:5). Sin and evil will be dealt with in perfect judgment (Revelation 20:13). Because of Christ, we have the promise of Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

God is good in that He provides for His children (Matthew 6:33). He gives life to all and upholds all things by His wisdom and power (Hebrews 1:3). He is patient with sinners, desiring them to come to repentance and find eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). God gives us eternal life and abundant life now, free from the death penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). He is “rich in mercy” because of “His great love for us” (Ephesians 2:4).

Just picture the Sinless One who created everything, willfully hanging on a cross and spilling His blood for the sin of those who put their faith in Him. Who can charge Him with injustice (Romans 9:14)? Jesus proves God’s love. “Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7–8).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: What Does It Mean that God Is Light?

 

Light is a common metaphor in the Bible. Proverbs 4:18 symbolizes righteousness as the “morning sun.” Philippians 2:15 likens God’s children who are “blameless and pure” to shining stars in the sky. Jesus used light as a picture of good works: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:16). Psalm 76:4 says of God, “You are radiant with light.”

If light is a metaphor for righteousness and goodness, then darkness signifies evil and sin. We are told in 1 John 1:5 that “if we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” Verse 5 says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Note that we are not told that God is a light but that He is light. Light is part of His essence, as is love (1 John 4:8). The message is that God is completely, unreservedly, absolutely holy, with no admixture of sin, no taint of iniquity, and no hint of injustice.

If we do not know light, we do not know God. Those who know God, who walk with Him, are of the light and walk in the light. They are made partakers of God’s divine nature, “having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4).

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). To “walk” means to make progress. Therefore, we can infer from this Scripture that Christians are meant to grow in holiness and to mature in faith as they follow Jesus (see 2 Peter 3:18).

It is God’s plan that believers become more like Christ every day. “You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5). He is the Creator of physical light, as well as the Giver of spiritual light, by which we can see the truth. Light exposes that which is hidden in darkness; it shows things as they really are. To walk in the light means to know God, understand the truth, and live in righteousness.

Christ followers must confess any darkness within themselves—their sins and transgressions—and allow God to shine His light through them.

Christians cannot sit idly by and watch others continue in darkness, knowing that those in the darkness of sin are destined for eternal separation from God. The Light of the World desires to banish the darkness and bestow His wisdom everywhere (Isaiah 9:2; Habakkuk 2:14; John 1:9). In taking the light of the gospel to the world, we must by necessity reveal things about people that they would rather leave hidden. Light is uncomfortable to those accustomed to the dark (John 3:20).

Jesus, the sinless Son of God, is the “true light” (John 1:9). As adopted sons of God, we are to reflect His light into a world darkened by sin. Our goal in witnessing to the unsaved is “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: What Is the Grace of God?

 

Grace is a constant theme in the Bible, and it culminates in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus (John 1:17). The word translated “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word charis, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness.” We can all extend grace to others; but when the word grace is used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves.” The only way any of us can enter into a relationship with God is because of His grace toward us. Grace began in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal to cover the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). He could have killed the first humans right there for their disobedience. But rather than destroy them, He chose to make a way for them to be right with Him. That pattern of grace continued throughout the Old Testament when God instituted blood sacrifices as a means to atone for sinful men. It was not the blood of those sacrifices that cleansed sinners; it was the grace of God that forgave those who trusted in Him (Hebrews 10:4; Genesis 15:6).

The apostle Paul began many of his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:3). God is the instigator of grace, and it is from Him that all other grace flows. Grace can be easily remembered by this simple acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

God shows both mercy and grace, but they are not the same. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve; grace gives a blessing we don’t deserve. Consider this illustration: you were stopped in your old clunker for going 60 mph in a school zone. The ticket is high, and you can’t pay it. You appear before the judge with nothing to say for yourself. He hears your case and then, to your surprise, he cancels your fine. That is mercy. But the judge doesn’t stop there. He walks you outside and hands you the keys to a new car. That is grace.

In mercy, God chose to cancel our sin debt by sacrificing His perfect Son in our place (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But He goes even further than mercy and extends grace to His enemies (Romans 5:10). He offers us forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 1:7), reconciliation (Colossians 1:19–20), abundant life (John 10:10), eternal treasure (Luke 12:33), His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and a place in heaven with Him some day (John 3:16–18) when we accept His offer and place our faith in His sacrifice.

Grace is God giving the greatest treasure to the least deserving—which is every one of us.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: How Can I Get to Know God Better?

 

Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19–20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God; most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4).

In John 3 we read about a man who clearly wanted to know God better and who became more studied than most in the things of God. His name was Nicodemus, and he was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. This Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, and he was truly curious to learn more about Jesus. Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus how he must be born again (verses 3–15). In order to know God better, Nicodemus had come to the right person—“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is indeed the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus revealed God through His words and works. He even said that no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.

So, we must start with faith. The first step in knowing God better is to know Jesus Christ, who was sent from God (John 6:38). Once we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly begin to learn about God, His character, and His will. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). By contrast, “the person without the Spirit … cannot understand [the things of God] because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (verse 14). There is a difference between the “natural” man and the “spiritual” man.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. It cannot be emphasized enough how the study of God’s Word, the Bible, is paramount to knowing God better. We must, “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow up in [our] salvation, now that [we] have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2–3). God’s Word should be our “delight” (Psalm 119:16, 24).

Those who are learning more about God are also those who obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Born-again believers always have the Holy Spirit, but Ephesians 5:15–21 teaches us to walk in the Spirit and surrender to His will.

Prayer is also an important part of knowing God better. As we pray, we praise God for His character and for what He has done. We spend time with Him, relying on His power and allowing the Spirit to intercede for us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Also consider that one can get to know God better by fellowshipping with other believers. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. We learn more about God through the preaching of God’s Word and the godly counsel of those who walk with Him. Make the most of your church experience, get involved, do small-group Bible study, go witnessing with fellow believers. Just like a log ablaze on the hearth soon goes out when it is removed and placed aside, so we will lose our fervor for God if we do not fellowship with other believers. But put the log back into the fire with the other logs, and it will burn brightly again.

To summarize how to get to know God better: 1) Accept Christ as your Savior. 2) Read His Word … it is alive (Hebrews 4:12). 3) On an on-going basis, be filled with the Holy Spirit. 4) Seek the Lord through prayer. 5) Fellowship and live out your life with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: What Does It Mean that God Is with Us?

 

It is good to know that God is omnipresent (everywhere at one time)—it is one of His attributes. Coinciding with His omnipresence are the attributes of omniscience (all knowledge) and omnipotence (all power). These concepts are a bit much for us humans to comprehend, but God knows that, too (Isaiah 55:8). God fills His creation and is universally present in person, in understanding, and in power at all times. “He is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27).

On a more personal level, God is with all believers today in that His Holy Spirit indwells us. This indwelling can only happen if one is born again (John 3:3). First John 5:11–12 tells us it is Jesus who indwells us: “This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” And Jesus said the Father comes to abide with us: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

In Galatians 2:20 Paul says, “Christ lives in me.” Then in 3:5 he says that God has given us His Spirit. In verses 26–27, he says that believers are “baptized into Christ” and are “clothed” with Christ. (God is as close as our clothing!) Galatians 5 then discusses the fruit of the Spirit and states in verse 25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” With many such verses as these, it is clear that God is in three Persons and that all Three dwell in all born-again believers—at all times (Matthew 28:20).

One of Jesus’ titles is “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). When Jesus came into this world, He was truly, literally “God with us.” Because God is with us, we know that we will never be separated from His love (Romans 8:38–39). God’s presence assures us that we can accomplish His will for us (1 Chronicles 22:17–19). God’s presence overcomes our fear, worry, and dissatisfaction (Hebrews 13:5).

The Holy Spirit in us is always praying for us (Romans 8:26). We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which means we should maintain an attitude of prayer and receptiveness in order to verbalize prayer to God whenever He leads. He is near to His children, attentive to their cry (Psalm 34:15).

We should verify that we are indeed walking with the Lord our God by often consulting His Word, fellowshipping with other believers, and seeking godly counsel from pastors, Christian counselors, and Christian friends. We should have the attitude that we are at all times in ministry with the Lord. The Holy Spirit will lead us. We will see God at work. God is alive, and He is near. He wants to communicate and commune with us. That is the joy of the Christian life.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: Does God Know the Future?

 

The Bible is always 100 percent accurate, including its prophetic content. Take, for instance, the prophecy that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, as foretold in Micah 5:2. Micah gave his prophecy around 700 B.C. Where was Christ born seven centuries later? In Bethlehem of Judea (Luke 2:1–20; Matthew 2:1–12).

Peter Stoner, in Science Speaks, has shown that coincidence in prophetic Scripture is ruled out by the science of probability. Taking just eight prophecies concerning Christ, Stoner found that the chance that any one man might have fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000. Of course, Jesus fulfilled many more than eight prophecies! There is no doubt that Bible is totally accurate in foretelling the future.

Since God can foretell the future, He certainly knows the future. Isaiah recorded these words about God: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ ” (Isaiah 46:9–10). God is the only One who can stand at the beginning and accurately declare the end.

God is omniscient; He knows everything actual and possible. God is also eternal (Psalm 90:2). As the eternal, omniscient God, He has lived our yesterdays, our todays, and our tomorrows, the past, present, and future. As the popular song says, “To You my future is a memory / ‘Cause You’re already there” (John Mark Hall and Bernie Herms, “Already There”). God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 21:6).

There are still prophecies in the Bible that await fulfillment. Because God knows the future, we can count on all the prophecies to eventually be fulfilled. Events are taking place in God’s calendar according to His plan. We know who holds the future—the one true, personal, eternal, and all-knowing God of the Bible.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: Can God Lie?

 

The eternal God is holy (Isaiah 6:3). His holiness makes it impossible for Him to lie, for by “holy” is meant that God is absolute, transcendent purity. He does not conform to the standard; He is the standard. As Tozer has said, “He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is” (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 105). Since God is holy, all His other characteristics or attributes are also holy. Thus, when God speaks, He will not and cannot lie. He never deceives; neither does He distort or misrepresent what He says or does. Lying is against His nature.

This means that God’s Word, the Bible, is completely trustworthy (1 Kings 8:56; Psalm 119:160). Hebrews 6:13–14 says that the basis of God’s promise to Abraham was God’s own unchanging nature: “Since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ ” The text continues in Hebrews 6:17–18, “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.… It is impossible for God to lie.”

Two things are revealed here about God’s truthfulness. First, He stands on His own Word, the oath He made to Himself. Since He is the holy God, it is impossible for Him to lie. He cannot contradict His own pure character. Second, God has kept the promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3, that through Abraham’s Seed the world would be blessed. That promise came true some 2,000 years later when Jesus Christ came into the world (Galatians 3:16). Jesus was of the Seed of Abraham and is now the Savior of the world through His death, burial, and resurrection. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ receive His forgiveness and eternal life (John 1:12; 3:16). The promise to Abraham, then, continues to be carried out through the person of risen Christ. This means the promise is still in effect today and will be throughout eternity, for Jesus Christ is the Fulfiller of the promise (see 2 Corinthians 1:20).

If God could lie, He would not be the eternal, personal God revealed in the Bible through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, who wants to place their faith in a God who cannot be trusted in what He says? If God could lie, He would have something in common with Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), and that would be impossible. If God could lie, He would be just like us—humans sometimes lie, misrepresent or distort the truth. But “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).

The biblical God is a God of pure moral health. He wants us to experience that same moral health through faith in Jesus Christ so we can live a life transformed by His power. May we give evidence of His holiness in our daily lives (1 Peter 1:15–16). May we love the truth as God does.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about God: How do you know that God exists?

 

Is there truly a God? How can anyone be sure such a being exists?

We believe that the existence of God, and questions such as these relating to it, can be intelligently answered. The reason we know that God exists is because He has told us so, and has revealed Himself to us.

It would be no help to us at all in our human predicament if God were silent, but happily this is not the case. God not only exists, but also He has communicated that fact to us. He has told us all about who He is, what He is like, and what His plan is for planet earth.

He has revealed these things to mankind through the Bible. The Bible has demonstrated itself to be more than a mere book; it is the actual Word of God. The evidence is more than convincing to anyone who will honestly consider its claims.

Because of the boasts the Bible makes for itself, many have tried to destroy it, as related in this statement by Martin Luther:

“Mighty potentates have raged against this book, and sought to destroy and uproot it—Alexander the Great and princes of Egypt and Babylon, the monarchs of Persia, of Greece and of Rome, the Emperors Julius and Augustus—but they prevailed nothing.

“They are gone while the book remains, and it will remain forever and ever, perfect and entire, as it was declared at first. Who has thus helped it—who has protected it against such mighty forces? No one, surely, but God Himself, who is master of all things” (Cited by Fritz Ridenour, Who says, G. L. Publications, Regal Books, 1967).

Even the French skeptic, Rousseau, saw something different in the Scriptures. “I must confess to you that the majesty of the Scriptures astonishes me; the holiness of the evangelists speaks to my heart and has such striking characters of truth, and is, moreover, so perfectly inimitable, that if it had been the invention of men, the inventors would be greater than the greatest heroes” (Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, Frank Mead, p. 32).

The Bible, therefore, gives us sufficient reason to believe that it is the Word of the living God, who does exist and who has revealed Himself to the world.

Another reason that we know God exists is because He has appeared in human flesh. Jesus Christ was God Almighty who became a man. The Bible says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, RSV), and it is clear about the fact that Jesus came to earth to reveal who God is and what He is all about (John 1:18).

If someone wants to know who God is and what He is like, he only needs to look at Jesus Christ. As Lord Byron said, “If ever man was God or God was man, Jesus Christ was both” (Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, Frank Mead, p. 81).

Instead of man reaching up to find God, God reached down to man, as Casserley explains, “The gospel provides that knowledge of ultimate truth which men have sought through philosophy in vain, inevitably in vain, because it is essential to the very nature of God that He cannot be discovered by searching and probing of human minds, that He can only be known if He first takes the initiative and reveals Himself” (J. V. Langmead Casserley, The Christian in Philosophy, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951, p. 21).

Jesus, in coming back from the dead, established Himself as having the credentials to be God, and it was this fact that demonstrated its truth to the unbelieving world. As Machen says, “The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was a historical message, an account of something that had happened; it was the message, ‘He is risen’” (J. G. Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, pp. 28, 29).

Thus we have the Bible, and the person of Jesus Christ, as two strong reasons arguing for the existence of God. No other religion or philosophy offers anything near to demonstrate that a God exists.[1]

 

 

[1] McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. (1993). Answers to tough questions. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

Questions about God: Does God Exist? (Arguments For The Existence Of God)

There have traditionally been four basic arguments used to prove God’s existence. They are called the cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological arguments. But since these are technical terms, let’s just call them the arguments from Creation (cosmos means creation), design (telos means purpose), moral law (axios means judgment), and being (ontos means being).

Argument from Creation

The basic idea of this argument is that, since there is a universe, it must have been caused by something beyond itself. It is based on the law of causality, which says that every limited thing is caused by something other than itself. There are two different forms of this argument, so we will show them to you separately. The first form says that the universe needed a cause at its beginning; the second form argues that it needs a cause right now to continue existing.

History of the Argument from Creation

Paul said that all men know about God “for God has made it evident to them. For since the Creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Rom. 1:19–20). Plato is the first thinker known to have developed an argument based on causation. Aristotle followed. Muslim philosophers Al-Farabi and Avicenna also used this type of reasoning, as did the Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides. In Christian thought, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Descartes, Leibniz, and others to the present day have found it valuable, making it the most widely noted argument for God’s existence.

The universe was caused at the beginning

This argument says that the universe is limited in that it had a beginning and that its beginning was caused by something beyond the universe. It can be stated this way:

1.   The universe had a beginning.

2.   Anything that has a beginning must have been caused by something else.

3.   Therefore, the universe was caused by something else, and this cause was God.

In order to avoid this conclusion, some people say that the universe is eternal; it never had a beginning—it just always existed. Carl Sagan said, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” But we have two ways to answer this objection. First, the scientific evidence strongly supports the idea that the universe had a beginning. The view usually held by those who claim that the universe is eternal, called the steady state theory, leads some to believe that the universe is constantly producing hydrogen atoms from nothing. It would be simpler to believe that God created the universe from nothing. Also, the consensus of scientists studying the origin of the universe is that it came into being in a sudden and cataclysmic way. This is called the Big Bang theory. The main evidence for the universe having a beginning is the second law of thermodynamics, which says the universe is running out of usable energy. But if it is running down, then it could not be eternal. What is winding down must have been wound up. Other evidence for the Big Bang is that we can still find the radiation from it and see the movement that it caused (see chap. 10 for details). Robert Jastrow, founder-director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, has said, “A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but if it does, science cannot find out what the explanation is. The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation.”

But beyond the scientific evidence that shows the universe began, there is a philosophical reason to believe that the world had a starting point. This argument shows that time cannot go back into the past forever. You see it is impossible to pass through an infinite series of moments. You might be able to imagine passing through an infinite number of dimensionless points on a line by moving your finger from one end to the other, but time is not dimensionless or imaginary. It is real and each moment that passes uses up real time that we can’t go back to. It is more like moving your finger across an endless number of books in a library. You would never get to the last book. Even if you thought you had found the last book, there could always be one more added, then another and another.… You can never finish an infinite series of real things. If the past is infinite (which is another way of saying, “If the universe had always existed without a beginning”), then we could never have passed through time to get to today. If the past is an infinite series of moments, and right now is where that series stops, then we would have passed through an infinite series and that is impossible. If the world never had a beginning, then we could not have reached today. But we have reached today: so time must have begun at a particular point in the past, and today has come at a definite time since then. Therefore, the world is a finite event after all and it needs a cause for its beginning.

Two Kinds of Infinite Series

There are two kinds of infinite series, one is abstract and the other is concrete. An abstract infinite series is a mathematical infinite. For example, as any mathematician knows, there are an infinite number of points on a line between point A and point B, no matter how short (or long) the line may be. Let’s say the points are two bookends about three feet apart. Now, as we all know, while there are an infinite number of abstract mathematical points between the two bookends, nevertheless, we cannot get an infinite number of actual books between them, no matter how thin the pages are! Nor does it matter how many feet of distance we place between the bookends; we still cannot get an infinite number of books there. So while abstract, mathematical infinite series are possible, actual, concrete infinite series are not.

Now that we have seen that the universe needs a cause of its beginning, let’s move on to the second form of the argument. This argument shows that the universe needs a cause of its existence right now.

The universe needs a cause for its continuing existence

Something is keeping us in existence right now so we don’t just disappear. Something has not only caused the world to come into being (Gen. 1:1), but is also continuing and conserving its existence in the present (Col. 1:17). The world needs both an originating cause and a conserving cause. In a sense, this question is the most basic question that can be asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” It can be put this way:

1.   Finite, changing things exist. For example, me. I would have to exist to deny that I exist; so either way, I must really exist.

2.   Every finite, changing thing must be caused by something else. If it is limited and it changes, then it cannot be something that exists independently. If it existed independently, or necessarily, then it would have always existed without any kind of change.

3.   There cannot be an infinite regress of these causes. In other words, you can’t go on explaining how this finite thing causes this finite thing, which causes this other finite thing, and on and on, because that really just puts off the explanation indefinitely. It doesn’t explain anything. Besides, if we are talking about why finite things are existing right now, then no matter how many finite causes you line up, eventually you will have one that would be both causing its own existence and be an effect of that cause at the same moment. That is nonsense. So no infinite regress can explain why I am existing right now.

4.   Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite, changing thing that exists.

This argument shows why there must be a present, conserving cause of the world, but it doesn’t tell us very much about what kind of God exists. How do we know that this is really the God of the Bible?

Argument from design

This argument, like others that we will mention briefly, reason from some specific aspect of creation to a Creator who put it there. It argues from design to an intelligent Designer.

1.   All designs imply a designer.

2.   There is great design in the universe.

3.   Therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe.

The first premise we know from experience. Anytime we see a complex design, we know by previous experience that it came from the mind of a designer. Watches imply watchmakers; buildings imply architects; paintings imply artists; and coded messages imply an intelligent sender. It is always our expectation because we see it happening over and over. This is another way of stating the principle of causality.

Also, the greater the design, the greater the designer. Beavers make log dams, but they have never constructed anything like Hoover Dam. Likewise, a thousand monkeys sitting at typewriters would never write Hamlet. But Shakespeare did it on the first try. The more complex the design, the greater the intelligence required to produce it.

History of the Argument from Design

“For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:13–14). Responding to the birth of the Enlightenment and the scientific method, William Paley (1743–1805) insisted that if someone found a watch in an empty field, he would rightly conclude that there had been a watchmaker because of the obvious design. The same must be said of the design found in nature. The skeptic David Hume even stated the argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, as have several others. However, there have been at least as many objectors to it as there have been proponents of it. The classic exponent was William Paley, and the most noted opponent was David Hume.

We ought to mention here that there is a difference between simple patterns and complex design. Snowflakes or quartz crystals have simple patterns repeated over and over, but have completely natural causes. On the other hand, we don’t find sentences written in stone unless some intelligent being wrote them. That doesn’t happen naturally. The difference is that snowflakes and crystals have a simple repeated pattern. But language communicates complex information, not just the same thing over and over. Complex information occurs when the natural elements are given boundary conditions. So when a rockhound sees small round rocks in a stream, it doesn’t surprise him because natural erosion rounds them that way. But when he finds an arrowhead he realizes that some intelligent being has deliberately altered the natural form of the rock. He sees complexity here that cannot be explained by natural forces. Now the design that we are talking about in this argument is complex design, not simple patterns; the more complex that design is, the greater the intelligence required to produce it.

That’s where the next premise comes in. The design we see in the universe is complex. The universe is a very intricate system of forces that work together for the mutual benefit of the whole. Life is a very complex development. A single DNA molecule, the building block of all life, carries the same amount of information as one volume of an encyclopedia. No one seeing an encyclopedia lying in the forest would hesitate to think that it had an intelligent cause; so when we find a living creature composed of millions of DNA-based cells, we ought to assume that it likewise has an intelligent cause. Even clearer is the fact that some of these living creatures are intelligent themselves. Even Carl Sagan admits:

The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to the total number of connections among neurons—about a hundred trillion, 1014 bits. If written out in English, say, that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries. The equivalent of twenty million books is inside the heads of every one of us. The brain is a very big place in a very small space.… The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more wonderful than any devised by humans.

Some have objected to this argument on the basis of chance. They claim that when the dice are rolled any combination could happen. However, this is not very convincing for several reasons. First, the design argument is not really an argument from chance but from design, which we know from repeated observation to have an intelligent cause. Second, science is based on repeated observation, not on chance. So this objection to the design argument is not scientific. Finally, even if it were a chance (probability) argument, the chances are a lot higher that there is a designer. One scientist figured the odds for a one-cell animal to emerge by pure chance at 1 in 1040000. The odds for an infinitely more complex human being to emerge by chance are too high to calculate! The only reasonable conclusion is that there is a great Designer behind the design in the world.

Argument from moral law

Similar arguments, based on the moral order of the universe rather than the physical order, can be offered. These argue that the cause of the universe must be moral, in addition to being powerful and intelligent.

1.   All men are conscious of an objective moral law.

2.   Moral laws imply a moral Lawgiver.

3.   Therefore, there must be a supreme moral Lawgiver.

History of the Moral Argument

This argument did not gain prominence until the early nineteenth century after the writings of Immanuel Kant. Kant insisted that there was no way to have absolute knowledge about God and he rejected all of the traditional arguments for God’s existence. He did, however, approve of the moral approach, not as a proof for God’s existence, but as a way to show that God is a necessary postulate for moral living. In other words, we can’t know that God exists, but we must act like He exists to make sense of morality. Later thinkers have refined the argument to show that there is a rational basis for God’s existence to be found in morality. There have also been attempted disproofs of God’s existence on moral grounds based on ideas coming from Pierre Bayle and Albert Camus.

In a sense, this argument also follows the principle of causality. But moral laws are different from the natural laws that we have dealt with before. Moral laws don’t describe what is; they prescribe what ought to be. They are not simply a description of the way men behave, and are not known by observing what men do. If they were, our idea of morality would surely be different. Instead, they tell us what men ought to do, whether they are doing it or not. Thus, any moral “ought” comes from beyond the natural universe. You can’t explain it by anything that happens in the universe and it can’t be reduced to the things men do in the universe. It transcends the natural order and requires a transcendent cause.

Same, Different, or Similar?

How much like God are we? How much can an effect tell us about its cause? Some have said that the effect must be exactly the same as its cause. Qualities such as existence or goodness in the effect are the same as those qualities in its cause. If that is true, then we should all be pantheists, because we are all God, eternal and divine. In reaction, some have said that we are entirely different from God—there is no similarity between what He is and what we are. But that would mean that we have no positive knowledge about God. We could only say that God is “not this” and “not that,” but we could never say what He is. The middle road is to say that we are similar to God—the same, but in a different way. Existence, goodness, love, all mean the same thing for both us and for God. We have them in a limited way, and He is unlimited. So we can say what God is, but in some things, we must also say that He is not limited as we are—“eternal,” “unchanging,” “nonspatial,” etc.

Now some might say that this moral law is not really objective; it is nothing but a subjective judgment that comes from social conventions. However, this view fails to account for the fact that all men hold the same things to be wrong (like murder, rape, theft, and lying). Also, their criticism sounds very much like a subjective judgment, because they are saying that our value judgments are wrong. Now if there is no objective moral law, then there can be no right or wrong value judgments. If our views of morality are subjective, then so are theirs. But if they claim to be making an objective statement about moral law, then they are implying that there is a moral law in the very act of trying to deny it. They are caught both ways. Even their “nothing but” statement requires “more than” knowledge which shows that they secretly hold to some absolute standard which is beyond subjective judgments. Finally, we find that even those who say that there is no moral order expect to be treated with fairness, courtesy, and dignity. If one of them raised this objection and we replied with, “Oh, shut up. Who cares what you think?” we might find that he does believe there are some moral “oughts.” Everyone expects others to follow some moral codes, even those who try to deny them. But moral law is an undeniable fact.

Argument from being

A fourth argument attempts to prove that God must exist by definition. It says that once we get an idea of what God is, that idea necessarily involves existence. There are several forms of this argument, but let’s just talk about the idea of God as a perfect Being.

1.   Whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect Being possible (conceivable) must be attributed to it (otherwise it would not be the most perfect being possible).

2.   Necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect Being.

3.   Therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect Being.

History of the Argument from Being

When God revealed His name to Moses, He said, “I AM THAT I AM,” making it clear that existence is His chief attribute (Ex. 3:14, kjv). The eleventh-century monk Anselm of Canterbury used this idea to formulate a proof for God’s existence from the very idea of God, without having to look at the evidence in Creation. Anselm referred to it as a “proof from prayer” because he thought of it while meditating on the idea of a perfect Being; hence, the name of the treatise where it is found is the Monologion, meaning a one-way prayer. In another of his writings, the Proslogion, he dialogues with God about nature and develops an argument from Creation also. In modern philosophy, the argument from being is found in the writings of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Hartshorne.

To answer the first question, necessary existence means that something exists and cannot not exist. When we say this of God, it means that it is impossible for Him not to exist. This is the most perfect kind of existence because it can’t go away.

Now this argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence; but it fails to show that God actually exists. It shows that we must think of God as existing necessarily; but it does not prove that He must necessarily exist. This is an equivocation that has confused many people, so don’t feel stupid for having trouble with it. The problem is that it only talks about the way we think of God, not whether or not He really exists. It might be restated this way:

1.   If God exists, we conceive of Him as a necessary Being.

2.   By definition, a necessary Being must exist and cannot not exist.

3.   Therefore, if God exists, then He must exist and cannot not exist.

All Roads Lead to a Cause

We have seen that all of the traditional arguments ultimately rest on the idea of causality. The argument from being needs the confirmation that something exists in which perfection and being is found. The argument from design implies that the design was caused. Likewise, morality, justice, and truth as principles of an argument all assume that there is some cause for these things. This leads us back to the argument from Creation as the basic argument which proves God’s existence, for as one student said, it is the “causemological” argument.

It is like saying: if there are triangles, then they must have three sides. Of course, there may not be any triangles. You see, the argument never really gets past that initial “if.” It never gets around to proving the big question that it claims to answer. The only way to make it prove that God exists is to smuggle in the argument from Creation. It can be useful, though, because it shows that, if there is a God, He exists in a necessary way. That makes this idea of God different from some other ways to conceive of Him, as we will see later.

Now for the $64,000 Question: If all these arguments have some validity but rely on the principle of causality, what is the best way to prove that God exists? If you answer, “The argument from Creation,” you are on the right track. But what if we can combine all of these arguments into a cohesive whole that proves what kind of being God is as well as His existence? That is what we will do in the following pages.[1]


[1] Geisler, N. L., & Brooks, R. M. (1990). When skeptics ask (pp. 14–26). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Questions about God: Why is Jesus the only way to get to God?

 

People are constantly asking, “What’s so special about Jesus? Why is He the only way that someone can know God?”

Along with the problem of the heathen, there is no question asked more often than this one. We are accused of being narrow-minded because we assert there is no other way to get to God.

The first point to make is that we did not invent the claim of Jesus being the only way. This is not our claim; it is His. We are merely relating His claim, and the claim of the writers of the New Testament.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6, NASB) and, “For unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24, NASB). The apostle Peter echoed these words, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, KJV).

St. Paul concurred, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…  . ”(I Timothy 2:5, KJV). It is therefore the united testimony of the New Testament that no one can know God the Father except through the person of Jesus Christ.

To understand why this is so, we must go back to the beginning. An infinite-personal God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1) and man in his own image (Genesis 1:26). When He had finished creating, everything was good (Genesis 1:31).

Man and woman were placed in a perfect environment, with all their needs taken care of. They were given only one prohibition; they were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest they die (Genesis 2:17).

Unfortunately, they did eat of the tree (Genesis 3), and the result was a fall in four different areas. The relationship between God and man was now broken, as can be seen from Adam’s and Eve’s attempting to hide from God (Genesis 3:8).

The relationship between man and his fellow man was severed, with both Adam and Eve arguing and trying to pass the blame to someone else (Genesis 3:12, 13).

The bond between man and nature also was broken, with the ground producing thorns and thistles and the animal world no longer being benevolent (Genesis 3:17, 18). Man also became separated from himself, with a feeling of emptiness and incompleteness, something he had not experienced before the fall.

However, God promised to make all these things right and gave His word that He would send a Saviour, or Messiah, who would deliver the entire creation from the bondage of sin (Genesis 3:15). The Old Testament kept repeating the theme that some day this person would come into the world and set mankind free.

God’s Word did indeed come true. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 29). Jesus eventually died in our place in order that we could enjoy again a right relationship with God. The Bible says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” and “he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:19, 21, KJV).

Jesus has paved the way! God has done it all, and our responsibility is to accept that fact. We can do nothing to add to the work of Jesus; it has all been done for us.

If mankind could have reached God any other way, then Jesus would not have had to die. His death illustrates the fact that there is no other way. Therefore, no other religion or religious leader can bring someone to the knowledge of the one true God.

But the death of Jesus is not the end of the story. Let us illustrate why we prefer Jesus over other religious leaders. Suppose a group of us are taking a hike in a very dense forest. As we get deeper into the forest, we become lost.

Realizing that taking the wrong path now might mean we will lose our lives, we begin to be afraid. However, we soon notice that ahead in the distance where the trail splits, there are two human forms at the fork in the road.

Running up to these people, we notice that one has on a park ranger uniform, and he is standing there perfectly healthy and alive, while the other person is lying face down, dead. Now which of these two are we going to ask about the way out? Obviously, the one who is living.

When it comes to eternal matters, we are going to ask the one who is alive the way out of the predicament. This is not Mohammed, not Confucius, but Jesus Christ. Jesus is unique. He came back from the dead. This demonstrates He is the one whom He claimed to be (Romans 1:4), the unique Son of God and the only way by which a person can have a personal relationship with the true and living God.[1]

 


[1] McDowell, J., & Stewart, D. D. (1993). Answers to tough questions. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.