Is there really a God? Are the proverbs, histories, and all spiritual teachings in the Bible (either Old or New Testament or both) recycled from preceding spiritual teachings of the day (outside of that of the Jews, hence, originated in man) Why can’t we see God or "prove" His existence? How can we experience God acting directly in our lives without "testing" God? Is Belief in God solely an intense cerebral perception, a thought that "what I imagine in my head as God, is more than my imagination," or is there something more…?

A confused young disciple.

Dear confused young disciple:

Let me go at these questions one at a time. First, it is certainly possible that a small portion of the Old and even the New Testament are, in fact, quotes from others outside the biblical authors. I would say that, on balance, this would have to be a rather small proportion of the Bible, but I cannot (not would I want to) rule out the possibility that some biblical authors quoted the work of others. Let me be more specific.

For example, it is not unreasonable to think that some of the proverbs of Solomon or others were restatements of wise sayings which were already around. This would not detract from the fact that Proverbs is inspired by God. Second, we know from 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles that these authors were using materials from other historical records. Whether they might have quoted directly from these works is not known or knowable, but if they did so, this would do nothing to the doctrine that these books are inspired by God. Third, we have actual quotations from other materials in Ezra. The author tells us where he got his quotes from. This is also true in Daniel where the author says he is quoting from a letter written by Nebuchadnezzar.

Having said this, I believe there is good evidence that the great majority of both the Old and the New Testaments are the original work, either of the authors themselves, or of other inspired Jewish authors. The Genesis creation account is completely unlike any other creation account of other ancient peoples. Its scientific accuracy is absolutely astounding (see my book Is There A God at The laws of Moses are also completely distinct from other legal systems. Any parallels are certainly a very small proportion of the Law of Moses. Third, there are the dozens of prophecies in the Old Testament, especially those of the Messiah (see my book Reasons for Belief for example), but also including the astounding prophecies in Daniel, which certainly could not have been borrowed from other authors!!! (forgive the advertisement, but see my book Daniel, Prophet to the Nations It makes no sense to say that any of this content, or any more than a minute portion of it was borrowed from other people. Then there is the historical material (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles and others). It is not rational to think that the history of the Jews was taken from other people. One more example. The Psalms, mainly of David, are very personal. It does not seem to make sense to me that an obvisously Jewish poet would borrow his material from others. I could go on to argue about the clearly Jewish nature of the prophets….

About your second thought, this is a good question! Why doen’t God force us to believe in him? Why doesn’t he drop notes out of the sky and speak to us directly? My answer is that God gives us "free will." He does not force us to believe. It is his desire that we respond to him and that we willingly put our faith in him and love him. God does not force us to believe. In fact, he makes relatively little effort to prove his existence, assuming that it is obvious that God exists, from what has been created, so that men are without excuse of they do not believe in him (paraphrasing Romans 1). So, I would say that God has made it rather obvious that he exists, to the point that we have to close our eyes and refuse to see the obvious, but he does not force us to believe in him. Free will is the answer.

As for having direct experience of God acting in our lives, I would give more or less the same answer. Let me quote from Jesus himself. When challenged by people following him to give proof of who he was, he did not rise to that challenge. This is not in God’s character. Instead, in John 7:17 he puts out the following challenge: If anyone chooses to do God’s will [presumably as expressed by Jesus], he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." Jesus challenged people to put what he said into practice. As they say, "the proof is in the pudding" (and yes, I am quoting from someone else there!). From your introduction (a confused disciple) I assume that you are willing to take this challenge. Follow Jesus. Do what he said. Put the full weight of your faith in him. Jesus promises you that if you will do so, the fruits of this decision will speak for themselves.

As far as I know, for most people, belief in God is not "an intense cerebral perception." To be honest, I do not know what an intense cerebral perception is. I really do not know how to respond to this question. I guess I will respond in this way. From your question, I can tell that you are having doubts in your faith. To this I say, welcome to the club. All of us have doubts at times. This is normal. God is not seen and not seeable. Faith is "belief in things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) We cannot get around this. Yet, faith is not without reason. In fact, I believe that there is plenty of reason for faith in Jesus, in his resurrection, and in the inspiration of the Bible. You should hang on to those things you are sure of and learn, over the years, to trust God on the things you cannot yet see. I am confident that these things will come.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.