Tom: Thanks Gary. Dave Hunt’s book, An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith, which we are discussing, has more than a few thought-provoking contentions related to religious beliefs. One in particular, which got my attention and I’m sure many others, stated, “The belief of so many, particularly in the area of religion, has no factual foundation. The beliefs of many religious people are little more than sanctified superstitions.”
Now, Dave, I would think that, for many of our listeners, just putting “religious belief” and “factual foundation” in the same sentence would be rather startling. Faith and facts are not usually regarded as compatible.
Dave: Well, they have to be, Tom. Of course, we have discussed this a number of times from different angles, I guess, but, just logically, what is your religion going to be—your so-called religious faith? Why? “Well, I just got it,” or “I was raised that way,” or “I was born a Methodist, I’ll die a Methodist”; “I was born a Hindu, and I will die a Hindu.” That doesn’t make sense. Is there some factual basis? Does God really exist? Does He have any standards? Has He been able to communicate these to man? Can we know?
You’ve got your so-called biblical scholars—they’re talking about reinventing Christianity. What’s the point? We didn’t invent it. If we invented it, who cares? If it’s your idea against mine, or it’s just some feeling, you know. . . . I was being interviewed on the radio yesterday, and there was a pagan celebration going on, and the program had recorded an interview. Well, this was a young man and his wife—I think it was his wife—they had been raised in the Assemblies of God, and they became dissatisfied. [I asked], “Why are you into paganism?”
“Well, it just feels better,” you know, and “I just like it.”
Obviously, they never had a solid basis for what they believed; in fact, he said that he began at the age of five having these mystical experiences. But he continued on as, presumably, a Christian, but the Christian “religion,” as he called it, didn’t satisfy him, and there were so many different religions, and they contradicted one another, and so forth.
Tom: But, Dave, why would that make any difference, if you’re into experiences?
Tom: Everybody’s experiences are . . .
Dave: Exactly, Tom, because that’s what he said. What he liked about paganism, he said, “Look at all the people we have here at this celebration, and they can all do their own thing!”
Tom, it is—I can’t fathom it! It’s so ridiculous, it’s so illogical. So everybody is going to do their own thing? I said on the radio in response to it, “Well, it sounds exactly like what the Bible says: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned every one to his own way; Every man did what was right in his own sight.’” Does God have anything to say about this? Does He care?
And again, on the program, I said, “You can’t even play a game without rules. How are you going to be what God wants you to be, or does that really matter? Faith and facts have to go together. Otherwise, what am I believing? I am believing a myth, I’m believing a superstition; I’m believing some story that somebody passed along.”
Tom: Dave, you know one of the problems with doing this show from week to week is that we say some things that are important, and then somebody may pick up that show and then . . . or, by “important” I mean at least foundational to what we are trying to communicate, and somebody doesn’t hear that. So, we have a tendency to repeat some things for the sake of those who may be just listening to the program for the first time. But even so I think it’s valuable because I find that too often we’re not really grounded in fundamentals; that people jump on things or get excited about some things and really don’t seek out the basis or the foundation on which their belief, or an idea, or something they like, is based.
Dave: Tom, I think we’ve raised an awful lot of children in our Sunday schools and in our Christian homes who don’t have a foundation. And, as I’ve mentioned before on this program, I run into them all the time. I think most of our church services are sort of feelings-oriented. We’ve got music, makes you get into the mood, and a good positive up-building sermon. I think people can go week after week into a church service and sing the hymns and hear the prayers and listen to the message—and it’s all taken for granted that everybody understands it and everybody believes it, so we don’t really have to lay a foundation again and again.
I think we need a foundation, and I can tell you, Tom, in my life, as I have faced trials—now, there are things that come along and you could almost get mad at God. “God, why did you allow this?” “Is there a God?” I would never come to that thought because I know that there is, but I can tell you very often I have to get back to the basics, and I say, “Well, Lord, I know you exist. I can’t explain this universe without You. I know that You must be a God of love and purpose and justice and truth, or I wouldn’t even have those concepts. And so, Lord, I’m just going to trust you in this situation. I’m not going to try to analyze it from my limited viewpoint, because I don’t know tomorrow, I don’t know everything.
I have to remind myself sometimes God really does exist! Tom, as I look at this world and get out in the street and see the traffic going by, get in an airplane and go into airports, I mean, all the hustle and bustle and the developments of modern civilization, the computers and all the amazing stuff that we’re doing, the peace process, the negotiations over Jerusalem, whatever it is—there is one thing that is missing. That is God! It’s as though God doesn’t exist. It’s as though we are in charge of this world. We’ve made a mess of it for sure, but we are going to try to do a better job, and this carries over even into church services. We’ve got this thing called, “religion,” or “church,” and we have our opening hymn and we have our announcements.
Tom, and people out there listening, I’m not trying to be critical. I’m speaking to my own heart. It’s very easy to go along, day after day, and forget God. And this is what God himself says in the Old Testament. He says, “I have brought forth children. I’ve raised them, I’ve cared for them. My people have forgotten me days without number.” Or, when they think of God, they mold Him to their image, or He is some kind of a genie in a bottle who only exists to give us what we want. When we are in trouble, then we cry out to Him, and somehow we don’t give Him the love and the fellowship that He wants to have with us, and we just forget Him. We need to get back to the basics, and, Tom, if God really exists, if this is really true, if eternity is forever, and this time—our life is but a vapor that appears for a while and is gone—that ought to impact how we think and how we act.
Tom: Dave, one of the things that continually speaks to my heart is something, actually, you said—I don’t know when, you know we’ve been together so long, I keep getting these pearls of wisdom from you, and then you say, “Check it out in the Bible.” I do that, but what I’m getting at is that . . . I remember one time you said that faith is really trusting God, and in order to really trust somebody you have to get to know them.
Tom: And the better you know them . . . This is simple, but it’s absolutely true, and it’s had a great impact on my life—in a pinch . . . well, not even a pinch—in some kind of episode in my life in which everything seems to be going wrong, or tribulation, or whatever you want to call it, I can lean on God, not just because He is my only hope, or He is the only one out there that can bail me out, as it were, but because I can turn to Him quickly and in almost every situation, because I know Him better, and the better I know Him, the more I trust Him! And that’s critical. So, Dave, it isn’t just a bail-out situation, but it also . . . if you know somebody, and you get to know them better and better, and you love them more, it affects the choices I make in my life—the things that I do; the things that I know I shouldn’t do because I know it won’t be pleasing to Him. Now that’s not legalism; that’s a love relationship! And how else can we get to know God except if, again, as you’ve said many times, you study the Word on your knees. These are His love letters to us. And as you get to know somebody as they write to you, you obey those things, trying to please Him. It’s just a way to go about it. That’s what this program is about. We’re saying, search the Scriptures daily, not just so you can have this wealth of knowledge but so that you can know Him personally and better, because this is His revelation to us.”
Dave: It’s very basic in the Bible. Jesus said in John:17:3, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” And Paul cries out, "O, that I might know Him, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death,” because Christ has become our life, our very life. As Paul said to the Epicureans and the Stoics and the philosophers there on Mars Hill, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” So this is absolutely basic to life and faith. If I’m going to have faith, Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” To have faith in God, I must know that He is. I must believe that He is. “He that comes to God (Hebrews:11:6) must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” It doesn’t mean He rewards me with things. He rewards me with Himself. And to get to know God—I tell Him so often, it’s beyond our comprehension that God always is. He didn’t get to be God. There wasn’t a time when there was nothing, and suddenly God came into existence. God always has been, He always is, He always will be. He always is God! I mean, that’s beyond my ability to comprehend, and that He loves me, really loves me; He’s not just some impersonal cosmic energy source.
Tom: And doesn’t need us to fulfill anything in Himself.
Dave: He does not need us. It’s not because I’m worthy. It’s not because I’m worth it. It’s because of who He is, in spite of my unworthiness, that God really loves me and wants to teach me. I don’t know if I dare to digress, but we’ve got a little bird feeder out there and the birds are so sloppy, and they knock it down to the ground, and then the ducks come and get it from the ground, and then there’s coveys of quail that come through. I’m kind of partial to quail and way up in the . . .
Tom: . . . not squab . . .
Dave: (laughing) . . . way up in the rocks, I go up there and I throw some birdseed up there so the quail can get it, because they can’t fly up onto the bird feeder, and the ducks are getting it right down at the bottom. And do you know what? Those ducks have learned that it’s up in the rocks too, and they go up there. And then I try to—I think sometimes to the quail, “Why don’t you get over here quick before the ducks get here?” you know, and “I wish I could get down there and tell you!” I was saying to my wife just this morning, “Ruth, I think God must feel that way about us!” We are so stupid, so slow to learn.
I’ll be 74 shortly, and what have I learned? I remember the old cartoon—what did it say? “Why do we get so soon old and so late smart?” But God is so patient, and to know this God of infinite wisdom and power who created this universe, who knows where every subatomic particle and every atom is or ever will be or ever was—that’s such a privilege and a wonder to know Him!
Tom: Dave, we’ve been comparing the Scriptures, the Bible, God’s Word, with other sacred books, and we’ve been comparing biblical Christianity with other beliefs, other religions. And in keeping or following what you said, this God who loves us, who is sovereign, who created us, who, as you said, knows everything—from our sins to those . . . even the things that we attempt to do for Him, which are mostly for self—in all of these things, He demonstrates His love by sending His Son to die! Here is the Creator of the universe, becoming a man, dying for the sins of mankind! You know, as Charles Wesley said, “Amazing love, how can it be that thou my God wouldst die for me?” Where do you find a God like that in any other belief system, any other religion?
Dave: Tom, I think about that all the time. I talk to God about it all the time—that He would do that for us. I mean, we’re rebels, we’re sinners, and we’ve rebelled against Him. What man would do to God is we would tear Him from His throne and put ourselves in His place. And that was certainly demonstrated at the cross when God himself comes as a man in love and does nothing but good, feeds the sick, heals those who need healing, raises the dead, opens the eyes of the blind—and He is hated and mocked and put on the cross. That’s what we did to Him, and He knew what we would do, and He was willing to endure it because He loves us. And so He paid the penalty that His own infinite justice required for sin. He became a man so as a man He could pay the penalty for the human race.
Tom, as you said, that’s beyond our ability, even to fathom such love, and this is God’s love. This is not like Hinduism for example, the law of Karma, an impersonal law that could turn you into a bug or a tree or whatever, or the idea that if you picked someone up out of the gutter in Calcutta and put them in a clean bed, you know, and so forth, you’ve interfered with their karma, and they’re going to have to come back to that same place in the next life, and so forth.
Now here is a God who loves us. “Herein is love,” the scripture says, “not that we love God, but that He loved us.” Our love is in response to His, and the more we realize He loves us, the more we love Him in return. By the way, this is the highest motive for serving God. We’re not serving God because we’re afraid if we don’t He’ll damn us, and because we’re trying to earn our salvation, we’re trying to earn points with God. We serve Him in response to His love—out of love for what He has done for us. This is God, God, the Creator of the universe, that He wants me to know Him.
Tom: Dave, I was sharing this morning in the staff—with our devotions in staff—we were talking about the character of God. It’s wonderful to talk about, but I also, I was reminded in my own walk with the Lord early on, you know. I was reading the Scriptures, mostly the New Testament—hadn’t gotten around to the Old Testament—and I remember talking to a young pastor, and you know, I wanted to be “with it.” So I said, “You know, I really like it! I’m going through the Gospel of John. I just really love the God of the New Testament, but I’m not so sure about the God of the Old Testament.”
Well, you know what he said to me? “Well, have you read it?”
[Laughing] No, I hadn’t . . . well, you know, a few scriptures here and there, but no, I didn’t know that, until after I read the Old Testament, how incredibly from the Psalms and other verses we have God’s lovingkindness, His tender mercies, His longsuffering—and anyone who just objectively reads through the Psalms and doesn’t have an idea that this God is more compassionate, more loving, more merciful than anything they can comprehend along those lines, is just missing it.
Dave: You know, Tom, I’m a little bit older than you—well, of course I’ve been a Christian much longer—and I can remember reading these . . . not skeptics . . . modernists, liberals, of year and years, many years ago, forty years ago, who were talking about the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament, and that God is being progressively revealed and the ideas that Moses had, and so forth in the Old Testament about God were not the same as the idea that Jesus had and now it was Jesus who gave us the concept of a different God and so forth.
Now wait a minute! God is God! And the God of the Old Testament must be the same as the God of the New Testament. Is the Bible inspired of God? Did God speak through His prophets? Fifty times or more, Ezekiel says, “the Word of the Lord came unto me.” God doesn’t change. Yes, God has anger. “He is angry with the wicked every day.” God is angry with sin. He is opposed to sin. And you get that very clearly in the Old Testament. But in the New Testament it wasn’t just what men did to Jesus; God poured out His wrath against man upon Christ. That was why those hours of darkness, that was why He wept in the garden, “sweated as it were drops of blood.” The love of God is, as you said, comes through very clearly, over and over and over in the Old Testament. And His patience, His grace, His mercy, that year after year, decade after decade, He bears with the children of Israel, who are rebellious and disobedient.
And yet He pleads with them and is patient and cares for them. God is so wonderful, and what breaks my heart is in my own life, as well as in the world around us, that we ignore Him, we forget Him! We have our own little plans, our own little programs, and we go merrily on our way; even being religious, even going to church, and somehow God has been left out. I’m not saying that we’ve become atheists, that we would reject God, or reject His will, but somehow He is just forgotten, and we can carry on our lives without Him. Yet how much more wonderful to know Him, to fellowship with Him, to be in touch with Him, in communion with Him, moment by moment, day by day!
Tom: Dave, we only have about a minute and a half left, but somebody out there listening—and maybe they are attracted to what we have been saying. You’ve been sharing some of your experiences, I’ve been sharing some of my experiences, but we’ve been talking about the God who revealed Himself through the Scriptures. How does somebody get started with getting to know the God that we’re talking about? We only have a minute, so, sorry, Dave.
Dave: Well, they know, first of all, in their own conscience and by the universe around them that He exists. And He said, “If you seek me with your whole heart, you will find me.” So, seek God—the true God, not the God you want Him to be—but seek the true God. And He’s given us His Word. So search the Scriptures daily, and get to know Him and His Word, and open your heart to Him and He will reveal Himself.