Believing About God vs. Believing God

You believe that there is one God? You do well. The demons also believe, and tremble. – James 2:19

I’m just finishing a college class in philosophy of religion. Our professor guided us through many of the philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God, and in our last class, we talked about a more basic question. How much does all of this matter? Do we need a logical proof of God’s existence in order to believe in God?

A philosophical position that has grown more popular is the idea that our belief in God is justified not by logical proof, but by religious experience – in the same way everyone’s belief in the world around us is justified by experience. The only difference is that while everyone experiences the world around us, only some people have religious experiences (like sensing God’s presence, conversing with God in prayer, etc.). This explains why everyone believes in the world, but only some people believe in God.

If there were a logical proof of God’s existence that no one could reject, what kind of belief in God would it lead to? Everyone would have to say, “Yes, God exists.” But does that mean everyone would become religious believers? Of course not. There is an important difference between believing a fact about God, and believing in God as a person. If there were a proof that no one could ignore, then everyone would believe that fact: “God exists.” But other facts, such as the evil and suffering in the world, could still cause that person to distance themselves from God.

I, on the other hand, don’t respond in that way because I have a different kind of belief: I trust God, I believe God. This is not a kind of belief that can be inspired by logical arguments. It is a product of my relationship with a person whom I know: God. So even when terrible things happen, I remain committed to God because I believe I know Him, and He’s not the kind of person who will let those things happen for no good reason. I trust Him.

Logical arguments may or may not help me to know and believe things about God. Regardless of that, I still know and believe Him.

What is Good?

I’m taking philosophy classes at the University of Oklahoma, and enjoying it a lot. Many issues come up in philosophy that also come up in Christianity, but I think that Christians often don’t think about it. For example:

Why are good things good?

Of course, we believe that the things that are good are the things that God has commanded for us to do. But consider:

  1. Does God command them because they are good, or
  2. Are they good because God commands them?

I think that many Christians would say they believe the second definition, but act as if they believe the first. Think about it: we all walk around with lists of “good things” and “bad things” in our minds, and when we think about any of those things, we simply look at the list and exclaim – “Oops! Skipping Church! Bad thing!” or, “Yay! Praying! Good thing!” Is there anything important missing from those exclamations? Think about it. There is no mention of God.

The problem is that we are now starting with these ideas of “good,” and when we now think about God, we will assume that He will follow these ideas of good that we have. We think this way:

  1. These things are good
  2. God always does good things
  3. Therefore God will always do these things

Our “good things” are at a higher level than God! In fact, since they are telling God what to do, they might as well be god themselves. If God brings something unexpected into our life, like the need to skip church or our normal prayer time, we will almost certainly miss Him because we are focused on “doing good.”

It takes effort to learn, but living like God is real means acting as if good things are good…simply because God commands them. Put God at the top of your thoughts. Only then will we be motivated to seek a relationship with Him – so that we can hear from Him what the good things are for us to do.