Belief in a higher power has been common among men throughout history. One reason is because the evidence is so strong. Indeed, the great seventeenth century scientist, Rene Descartes, believed there was more proof for Gods existence than for anything else, for he said,
If there are finally any persons who are not sufficiently persuaded of the existence of God and of their soul by the reasons which I have brought forward, I wish that they should know that all other things of which they perhaps think themselves more assured (such as possessing a body, and that there are stars and an earth and so on) are less certain. 1
Why is the truth of God not obvious?
But if the existence of a higher power is so obvious, why is it so hard to know the truth about that higher power? Why has there always been great confusion and disagreement about who or what that power is? Consider the sun in the sky. It is very far away, yet is there any man so blind that he does not believe in the sun? Now, God is far more powerful than the sun, and he certainly could make himself obvious to us. Yet, in his infinite wisdom, he has chosen to keep himself invisible. King Solomon spoke about this when he said, "Jehovah has said that he would dwell in the thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12), meaning invisible to us. But why does he keep himself invisible, dwelling in what is for us "thick darkness" so that we cannot see him. One reason is because our sins have alienated him; for he once walked on earth with man. Now we must search just to know about him. One time, while he was preaching to the men of Athens, the apostle Paul said:
The God who made the world and all things in it, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands, nor is he served by the hands of men, as needing anything, since he himself gives to all life, and breath, with all things. And he made from one blood every nation of men to dwell upon all the face of the earth, having determined prescribed times, and the limits of their occupancy, to search for the Lord, if indeed perhaps they might grope for him and find him, although being not far from each one of us.
For in him we live, and move, and exist, as also some of the performers from you have said, For of him we are also offspring. Being therefore offspring of God, we ought not think the Divine to be like gold, or silver, or stone handiwork of the skill and thought of man. Indeed therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands for all men everywhere to repent. Because he appointed a day during which he is going to judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he appointed, having provided assurance to all men because he raised him from the dead (Acts 17:24-31).
Notice Paul said we were created "...to search for the Lord, if indeed perhaps they might grope for him and find him, although being not far from each one of us..." I also found a few other scriptures emphasizing Gods desire for us to search for him:
...if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Jehovah looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God (Psalm 14:2)
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end. And ye shall call upon me, and ye shall go and pray to me, and I will hearken to you. And ye shall seek me, and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
Searching for knowledge
Men debate about God, but on this everybody will surely agree: From the time we are born into this troubled world truth is something we must struggle to obtain. Knowledge is nourishment for our mind just as food is nourishment for our body, and both are essential for life. Thus, not only must we work to eat, we must struggle to learn. We must sweat for the "bread" which nourishes our minds, as well as our bodies. Moreover, not only must each individual work and struggle to acquire personal knowledge, but society needs specialists to discover new knowledge. Scientists must perform research, often enduring long hours of hard labor, in order to acquire new knowledge about the natural world. It is not an easy endeavor. They often debate among themselves about the meaning of things they find. And even when they agree upon explanations and new discoveries, they cannot rest for long because the world is a dynamic, changing place. Mans understanding of the world constantly needs revising because of new discoveries and changes in the world. It is foolish to cling blindly to scientific theories and explanations of centuries past. Now of course, the fundamental nature of the world does not change, and our core knowledge of it will never change. It is folly and madness to cast away all old knowledge. The sun will always rise (in our perception) each day; non-pressurized water will always boil at a high temperature; living animals will always bleed when they are cut. These are unchanging facts of nature. Yes, our scientific knowledge is based upon a foundation of well established, fundamental facts of nature. However, mankind is constantly (but very cautiously) adding new insights about the nature of the world. And a growing society will constantly develop new applications of that knowledge. The progress and survival of mankind demands that we not only continue to gain a clearer understanding of the world, but that we continue to seek ways to apply this knowledge most effectively. Failing to do so creates stagnation.
In the same way, God requires that we struggle to learn about him and his will for us. Quoting Moses, Jesus said, "It is written, Man will not live by bread alone, but on every word coming out through the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, from Deuteronomy 8:3). Thus, we must sweat for the nourishment essential for our spiritual lives. Each of us must work and struggle to acquire knowledge about God and his will for us. Moreover, scholars must perform research, often enduring long hours of hard labor, in order to discover new insights and truths about the Word of God. It is not an easy endeavor. They often debate among themselves about the meaning of things they find. And even when things become clearer, they cannot rest for long because the world is a dynamic, changing place. Our understanding of God and his Word constantly need revising because of new discoveries and changes in the world. It is foolish to cling blindly to the explanations and interpretations about God of centuries past. Now of course, the fundamental nature of Gods Word does not change, and our core knowledge of it will never change. It is folly and madness to cast away all of our past knowledge. God will always exist; murder and homosexuality will always be sins; Christ and his Church will always be the only way to eternal life. These are unchanging spiritual truths. Our knowledge of God and his Word is based upon a foundation of these well established, fundamental truths. However, we should be constantly (but very cautiously) adding new insights about God and his Word. And we should constantly be developing new applications of this knowledge. Our spiritual progress and survival demands that we continue to gain a clearer understanding of Gods Word, and that we continue to seek ways to apply this knowledge most effectively. Failing to do so creates stagnation.
Searching for the words of God
Consider the Word of God itself. I wonder how many countless billions of man-hours have been spent studying the Bible. Yet, there is widespread misunderstanding about the very nature of that great book. Somebody years ago coined the expression "the inerrant Word of God". Inerrant means infallible, or incapable of error, or in other words, perfect. Now in one sense the Word of God is truly inerrant, but the Bibles we use are not perfect books. The words in them are not perfect words. They are only symbols of the truth of God. The fact is the truth of God is conceptual, not something material you can point to, just as the kingdom of God is not something material you can point to. For Jesus said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation, nor will they say, Lo, here! or, Lo, there! For behold, the kingdom of God is inside of you" (John 18:36). There is nothing of this world that is perfect, including our Bibles. It is misleading to say the books we call Bibles are inerrant. For the Word of God itself claims otherwise, as I will show you. Now truly, the Word of God is a very precious treasure; indeed, it is the most precious treasure of all. Yet our brother Paul wrote: "...we have this treasure in earthen vessels..." (2 Corinthians 4:7). This precious treasure of the Word of God is "in earthen vessels", meaning it is found in an imperfect container. Yes, truly the Word of God is inerrant, but like everything else in this world, our Bibles are not.
If any man claims his Bible is inerrant, I would ask him which Bible he has? The vast majority of the Bibles men use are translations from the original Hebrew and Greek languages. None of these translations are infallible. Some are certainly closer to the real truth of Gods Word than others, but none can claim perfection. Even those who read the Bible in its original Hebrew and Greek words cannot claim they are reading an infallible book. For none of the original words exist, and the most ancient copies which have survived do not all perfectly agree. This is not to diminish the authenticity of our Bibles. In fact, those ancient manuscripts agree in a truly remarkable degree, but not perfectly. And so Bible scholars continue to work, seeking to verify all of the original words written by the hands of those men who were guided by the Holy Spirit of God to give mankind his Holy Book. Moreover, even though the vast majority of the words of Holy Scripture are verified as authentic, the message within those words is not always clear. How clear they are depends partially upon the maturity of the reader. Only a few of the words make much sense to a young child. Even an educated adult who is unacquainted with the Bible will find many of them unclear. Not one man on earth can honestly claim to understand them all. And so, like secular scientists and scholars who search for the meaning and laws of our material world, Bible scholars continue to search for the meaning and laws of our spiritual world. In this way mankind continually searches for God and his truth. No generation can rest on its laurels and claim complete victory, because each generation faces new challenges. You can read more about this matter in my essay Searching for the Word of God.
Why bother to search?
How important is all of this? Everybody knows that scientific knowledge about our world is enormously relevant to our living. It is exceedingly important to distinguish between what is true and factual versus what is not, because truth is crucial for our survival and development. Our very lives are at stake. It is deadly to make light of the importance of distinguishing what is factual and what is not. Would you go to a physician who was not serious about adhering to strict truth in medical affairs, and whose only interest was in making you feel good for the moment? Would you hire an architect who was casual and frivolous about the laws of physics when designing your house? Would you purchase food from a store whose owner insisted on the right to sell every kind of food, without regard to which ones may contain toxic substances? How healthy would any society be whose citizens lived that way? Would that society not be very polluted? Would it not experience many terrible disasters, and be filled with many sick people? Yet, in the even more vital spiritual realm people today think nothing about entrusting their spiritual health to pastors who are not serious about adhering strictly to Gods truth, and whose only interest is in making them feel good for the moment. Alas, most people today willingly accept the advice of men who are casual and frivolous about Gods spiritual laws. They happily shop in stores whose owners insist on the right to sell all kinds of garbage, filth, and poison for their minds.
It is no mystery why our lands are so polluted with evil! The light of Gods Word has made it all so abundantly clear to me. And so my heart groans when I see the lies of the Devil filling the airways, and pouring from the presses into the hearts of the people. It is environmental pollution of the very worst kind. And those disciples of the Devil who profiteer from it rant and rave against any effort to clean it up. As long as these predators can keep the people blind, the people will continue to be preyed upon by them, and the list of innocent victims will continue to grow. If only men would turn to God their eyes would be opened. He alone is our hope and our salvation. He is willing to forgive us, and to heal us, but he will never do it unless we humble ourselves, and commit our lives to searching for him, and obeying him. Our Lord and our Savior, Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and ye will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). But let no man think that asking with mere words is what the Son of God meant. As long as we live upon this earth we are under the curse of pain in labor. It is our duty to work hard, by the sweat of our brow, to "ask", and to "seek", and to "knock" upon Gods door for his help. And our Heavenly Father has promised that if we persevere in that endeavor, then he will answer us. We will find more of him and his truth. He will open his door to us. For the creator of this vast universe can do anything, and he will do anything to help us if we submit ourselves to him and his ways. Notice these tender (but firm) words of God written by his faithful servant Isaiah:
Come now, and let us reason together, says Jehovah, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye are willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword, for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken it (Isaiah 1:18-20).
The prophet Jeremiah once described how degenerate the ancient Israelites had become:
Take ye heed each one of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any brother, for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will go about with slanders. And they will deceive each one his neighbor, and will not speak the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies. They weary themselves to commit iniquity. Thy habitation is in the midst of deceit. Through deceit they refuse to know me, says Jehovah (Jeremiah 9:4-6).
The prophet Isaiah once asked his countrymen: "Who is among you that fears Jehovah, who obeys the voice of his servant? He who walks in darkness, and has no light, let him trust in the name of Jehovah, and rely upon his God?" (Isaiah 50:10). When, in times past, most Americans trusted in the name of the Jehovah, and relied upon God, then good prevailed. People could walk the streets at night without fear. They could even leave their houses and cars unlocked (ask the aged about those days). Our economy and our social institutions were the envy of the world. But now, when most Americans no longer trust in the name of Jehovah, and rely upon God, evil is growing. For now, we remain economically prosperous, but our spiritual foundation is decaying. Men no longer trust each another. Hatred and division and violence is increasing. Our social institutions are collapsing. Injustice and vice are the norm. We have lost, and are continuing to lose many precious rights and liberties. The only rights and liberties that have grown, are those to commit sin.
The word of God says, "Be not misled, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows this he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). This generation of Americans is sowing seed for material prosperity, and for spiritual degeneracy. They are reaping both. But the time will come when the treasure house of material prosperity will collapse upon the rottenness of its spirital foundation, unless they repent.
"Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, alone wise, to God is honor and glory into the ages of the ages. Truly" (1 Timothy 1:17).