Tom: Thanks, Gary. You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to him.
For those of you who are hearing the program for the first time, in this segment we are going through Dave Hunt’s book In Defense of the Faith, which features questions that Dave has received over the years and that cover some very important topics. “Who is God?” is the subject we’ve been addressing; and here’s a question that perhaps some of our listeners may have considered at one time or another:
“I would like to know God, and I have asked Him to reveal Himself to me, but nothing happens. It seems to me that if God really existed He would want us to believe in Him, and He would therefore do something tangible to let us know He exists. Is it wrong to ask for some unmistakable evidence of God’s existence?”
Dave: Well, Tom, the evidence is all around us. Now, how is God going to reveal Himself? He’s got some problems, because He’s . . .
Tom: Well, God doesn’t, but . . .
Dave: Well, yes there are problems for God to reveal Himself to us, because we are finite beings of very limited capabilities and understanding. Now, supposing we suddenly hear a voice from heaven: “I am God, worship me!” How would you know it was God speaking? Now, I could think of all kinds of possibilities. The skeptic would say, “Well, there was just a cloud formation up there, and there was a plane crossing at a certain angle and broke the sound barrier, and the weather conditions, and so forth, just caused the sound waves to come out: ‘I am God. Worship me.’” Or somebody else could say you were hallucinating. “Play it back.” “Well, we didn’t have a recorder going.” How is God . . . It’s like, you know how I love the quail in my back yard. I throw some feed out for them and they wander off in the wrong direction, and I just wish I could go out there and [say], “Hey guys, don’t you know this is where I put that bird seed?” I’d have a tough time becoming a quail and trying to get them to understand, but God has given us all the evidence we need: First of all, that He exists. We’ve been through this. We can prove that God exists from the universe itself. The Bible says . . .
Tom: Design—incredible design. Complexity.
Dave: Yes, and it even goes beyond design now; it goes into the DNA, which is more than design. It’s information that is put right in there in language that . . . matter cannot produce information any more than the ink on a page can produce the information. It requires a nonphysical intelligent source. We could go into all of that. But the person knows—anybody that looks at the universe around them—you just look at your hand. I mean, the design of a hand in contrast to the chimpanzee that we supposedly came from. The specificity of God’s design for certain things that need this and that need that. Tom, it just is . . . you couldn’t possibly believe that God does not exist.
Now, how do you want God to reveal Himself to you? What this person actually is saying is, “I’m not satisfied with the way You’ve revealed Yourself. I want You to reveal Yourself in a certain way.”
Think about it. Suppose that suddenly some letters appeared on a page. How would you know that it came from God? How do you know any more about the fact of God’s existence than the universe has already declared for you?
Tom: Yeah, Dave, in this chapter you internalize it a little bit more with regard to this question about the conscience. Conscience is an amazing thing! It tells us, it speaks to our hearts. It tells us things that we can recognize and admit to. Where did that come from?
Dave: Well, man has a conscience, there’s no doubt about that. Animals do not have a conscience. Now, I really impressed my sister and brother-in-law this morning when I commanded some wild ducks to get off of my pond and head for the other pond. It’s taken a little bit of training, you know, because they interfere with the feeding of the quail. [Laughing] I’m sure everybody out there is interested in this! But the point is, those ducks have no conscience. I can tell you that. They will come back and persist. But they also know that when I want them to leave, I want them to leave. But they don’t have a conscience.
Tom: No, there’s no morality there with regard to right and wrong.
Dave: They would not understand what is right and what is wrong, nor does a dog, nor does anything, any animal that has been trained, and so forth. Try to tell a spider what is right and wrong and so forth. No, it wouldn’t work. But man is just beyond; there is a chasm between man and all animals that cannot be explained. You could never cross it in increments of evolutionary development, because man has concepts of truth, of justice, of holiness, of perfection, of purpose, and meaning, and every human being knows in his conscience when he has done something that is wrong. It is not that he has learned every law that the legislative bodies have produced. They produce, I think, about 50,000 a year in the United States, but there is something beyond that: a sense of right and wrong, a sense of morals.
The Bible says that God has written His laws in every human conscience, and I think we can verify that. I can talk to a cannibal. Maybe he was raised in a society where they kill people and eat them. But we can still deal with his conscience. He knows in his conscience that this is not right. Conscience does not depend upon the culture, the taboos, what is accepted in this particular culture, as some anthropologists would try to tell you. No, it goes beyond that, and I’ve often used the illustration of the young man sitting in a courtroom. He doesn’t like the decision of the judge, and he says, “There ain’t no justice in this world!”
Now he’s not complaining that the judge has not followed the law. He probably doesn’t even know the fine points of the law that had been argued. But he has a sense that there’s a higher law. It just isn’t fair what is being done and, in fact, often as you know, the law is not fair. It has certain legalistic requirements that really aren’t fair.
You remember the famous case that went to the Supreme Court of two men and a boy—they were the lone survivors of a sinking of a ship, and it got to the point where they realized that there was not enough food and enough water for three of them, and one of them had to go—and the two men killed the boy. And it was proved in court (they survived) . . . it was proved in court that had they not killed him, all three would have died, and that was the argument of the defense attorney. And yet the court said they were guilty of murder. There was . . . no legislative body had ever ruled that if two men and a boy are adrift and there’s not enough food to go around, it would be okay or it would not be okay for the two men to kill the boy to help them survive. But there was a higher law that they were relying upon. We know that something is wrong, and it does not depend upon taboo; it does not depend upon what your mother taught you (although that has some influence), or what the court says, what the legislative body says—we know inside of us that there is a God, who has created us and who has a perfect justice as His standard.
Or when you read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, we’re confronted with a love there that is so pure, so selfless, so wonderful, it is beyond anything that we’ve seen in this world! But we know that that is what love ought to be! It’s like a haunting memory from a paradise from which we were expelled. You cannot escape this fact.
So, Tom, there are many ways in which every person, either looking at the universe around them or looking within their own conscience, they know that God exists. So, then, to demand of God that He should give me some further evidence—I don’t think you can make those kinds of demands from God.
Tom: Well, Dave, as you pointed out, the way this question is worded is: Is it wrong to ask for some unmistakable evidence of God’s existence? Just what you’ve articulated is overwhelming evidence for His existence, but sometimes people keep pushing it because they don’t like what they’ve heard or they’re not willing to recognize it. That’s the question they have to ask themselves.
Dave: And they make all kinds of excuses: “Well, look at those people who believe in God—look how they act.” Or, “Look at these people who call themselves Christians. They go to church and pray their holy prayers and sing their hymns on Sunday. Try to do business with them Monday through Friday!” and so forth.
No, you cannot use that kind of reasoning either. You cannot blame God for what people do in His name. People do all kinds of things in His name. You cannot blame Jesus Christ for the fact that the Crusaders, waving the cross, having the cross on their shields, slaughtered Christ’s brethren all across Europe on their way to the Holy Land and so forth. God has revealed Himself, and what we have just said is supported by Scripture, because I think it was last week, or the week before, you read, I believe, from Romans chapter one, where it says “They are all without excuse. God has revealed Himself.”
Tom: So, if there are people out there in our listening audience who have gotten into this mode—maybe once upon a time, or maybe that’s where they are now. Our encouragement to them is to read God’s Word with an open heart and an open mind. If they’re truly seeking after Him, God will open their understanding to certain things and encourage them along this line.
Dave: But they have to be willing to face the facts that He’s given them.
Tom: Right. Well you quote Jeremiah:29:13, “And you shall seek me and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart.”
Dave: You have to search for the true God. The problem is that most people do not want to know the true God. They don’t want to be atheists completely. They want to believe in a Higher Power, for example. A Higher Power that they can activate by positive thinking—that they can somehow take control of their lives and get what they want.
But we’ve said it before in previous programs, I think very recently, Tom. Do you really want to know God so that you can obey Him and be what He wants you to be? That’s why He wants us to know Him—so that we can understand His purpose and His plan for our lives. But if you want to plan your own life, and you want to take control of your own little universe, and you do not really intend to obey this God and to submit yourself to Him, then you are not seeking for Him. You’re seeking for a false God, and this is why pagans made idols. This is why they made deals. They would pacify their God with this sacrifice or that sacrifice, but they do not submit themselves to the conscience that God has given them. In fact, idolatry—and you can trace it down—all around the world and throughout history and in every culture, idolatry ultimately leads to immorality. A false god will lead you astray.
Tom: Dave, this next question is in the same ballpark: “In my daily Bible reading, I came across a verse which really puzzles me. ‘Without faith it is impossible to please him [that is, God] for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.’” Of course, that’s Hebrews:11:6. The question goes on, “Rather than God revealing Himself to a seeking heart, it sounds as though one must already believe in God before seeking Him. How can that be the case?”
Dave: Well, Tom, I don’t want to make rules, my own rules, but this is what the Bible says. I’ve heard testimonies of people who said they weren’t sure, and they cried out, “God if you’re really there, show me, or help me to understand.” But they must have had some inkling that God was there. But what Hebrews:11:6 says is that if you come to God, you must believe that He is. Why would I come to God if I don’t believe that He exists? Now, I may not know much about Him, but at least I have responded to the evidence in the universe around me and to my conscience. And I know that God exists. On that basis I come to Him.
Now, if I’m a total atheist, I’m not coming to God. I don’t believe He exists. That’s a problem, because my mind is already made up as an atheist, and I’m not going to accept anything. So I can ask God, “Reveal Yourself to me,” but nothing that He will do—I mean, He’s already (as we just said), He’s already given me more than enough evidence. So now, when I have accepted that evidence, then I can come to God and say, “I really want to know You. I’m really seeking You.” And I think, Tom, at this point, I would also have to believe that God is fair. He’s not going to play games with me. He’s not going to deceive me, lead me astray. But He will reward—it says, “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Tom: Dave, you mentioned in this chapter, would someone seek God if he didn’t already believe He existed? And you point out that it would be a waste of time. But the thing that hit me here is that you say God expects each person coming to Him to have a proper concept of who He is. Each person is accountable on the basis of the evidence.
Now, you also list the evidence, which I really like, because sometimes we are so Bible oriented, it’s hard for me to put myself in the place of somebody who doesn’t know the Bible but is looking out and seeking after God. But there’s incredible evidence that we’ve enumerated in past programs, but you’ve got a list of them here.
First of all, we can know that God is omnipotent. I mean, these are characteristics or qualities of God, right?
Dave: Yes, these are theological terms. However, Tom, any person in his conscience as he looks at the universe—God would have to be omnipotent to create this . . .
Tom: Yeah, all-powerful.
Dave: . . . entire universe. He would have to be omniscient. He would have to know everything that would result from His creation. He would have to know all the laws, of course, that He put into place and what they would do and how they would work, and how they would interrelate with one another.
Tom: If God is God, omniscience would also have to include knowing the future. Knowing what was going to take place.
Dave: Absolutely, and He would have to be omnipresent. He would have to everywhere. I mean, He would have to know what’s happening in every part of this universe! So, you can arrive at a certain understanding of who God is, in many ways—His characteristics and qualities—from the universe about you, from your own conscience.
Tom: We talked about Him being eternal. He has to be eternal; self-existent.
Dave: So, Tom, for someone to form an idol out of wood, or clay, or stone—it’s not rational. It’s a blindness that is inexcusable! This is why, in the Bible, Isaiah ridicules them—God speaking through him ridicules them, “Why these idols have eyes, they can’t see; they have ears, they can’t hear; they have a mouth, they can’t talk; they have feet, but you’ve got to carry them—how could you possibly believe that this is God?”
So, when I come to God, I’m going to have to recognize the God that I’m coming to. There ought to be some fear, there ought to be some reverence. This God created the universe! He is timeless; He has no beginning and no end. We’ve already talked about that in previous programs. We know the universe had a beginning, but it couldn’t have come from nothing. But there must have been a time when there was nothing, because matter wears out, Second Law of Thermodynamics. Therefore, there was time when there was nothing—except God. No “thing,” but someone who is eternal, and that’s beyond our comprehension. Nevertheless, all the evidence would cause me to fall on my face before this Creator and cry out to Him, “I want to know You, and I want You to show me what you want me to be and do, because You created me, and I belong to You! I am accountable to You! I mean, my whole life, every breath that I draw, comes from God.” Then I am going to know in my conscience that I have broken His laws. I know that in my conscience, and I’m also going to know, Tom, I can’t say to the judge—I’ve had a speeding ticket, and I say, “Judge, well if you let me off this time, I promise you, scout’s honor, I’ll never break the law again.”
The judge says, “If you don’t break the law again, you’re only doing what the law requires. You don’t get extra credit for that. What are we going to do about the fact that you already broke the law?” I think every person in his conscience knows you can’t make up for breaking the law yesterday by keeping the law perfectly for the rest of your life. God must have some provision for this! I come to him as a person—you know, sin, in fact, is defined in the Bible as “coming short of the glory of God.” We were made—man was made—in the image of God! He was made to reflect God’s perfect character. He was given the capabilities of knowing God and of reflecting God’s character, His love, and His patience and kindness and so forth. We know we’ve fallen short of that.
Now, there’s no way that we can build ourselves up, that somehow we can become perfect. So even a pagan somewhere who’s never even heard, never read the Bible, he would know God must somehow have a way of forgiving me, and he can’t just make a bookkeeping entry in heaven. He can’t just say, “Okay, well, I’ll forgive you.”
Tom: Not and be fair and just.
Dave: It wouldn’t be just. We know that God is perfect in holiness and justice. So this person will come to God, crying out to Him and relying upon Him. He’ll have a broken heart. He’ll be repentant for having broken God’s laws and having fallen short of what God wants him to be. And He will cry out to God to show Him, “God, You must have some provision!” Now, of course, the Bible reveals this fully. God himself became a man, through the virgin birth. Didn’t cease to be God; will never cease to be man. He’s the one-and-only God-man, and He paid the penalty that His own justice required.
You won’t find this in Hinduism and Buddhism and Confucianism and so forth, but it rings true to our conscience. So, again, Tom, as you often recommend, and I do the same, read the Word of God! Later on in the program we’ll be studying in John’s gospel. Get in John’s gospel, and it will . . . what God says in His word will ring true to you. You will know this is God’s Word, and you will know in your conscience that He is offering you the only solution that there possibly could be for falling short of His glory!
Tom: Dave, I think about John’s words, written (of course, they are Jesus’s words), “If you abide in my Word you are my disciples indeed, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”