Friday, May 18, 2012

Who is God, part 1

Who is God?

It seems that everyone these days has an opinion about who God is, and what He’s like. Some prefer to picture God as a grandfatherly person sitting up in heaven just waiting to take care of you and help you out because he loves you. Others picture God as the clock maker – the creator who lets things work on their own and does not really intervene in daily life.  Still others depict God as a horrible, judgmental being who condemns people unjustly, is the reason for pain and suffering, and should be hated and reviled.  Still others depict God as Jesus Christ, the perfect man who did not sin and who does not condemn but forgives and accepts all who come to him.

There are probably as many different depictions of God as there are people in the world.  And these days, there are many depictions of God that sound wonderful but deny who He says He is. So which of these – if any – is right?

We are left with these questions:

Who is God, really? 
What is He really like? 
What does He say about Himself?
How can we describe Him?
How do we know for sure? 

Let’s embark on a journey to find out more about the God we serve.

How do we know anything about God?

Our first question needs to be, “How do we know anything about this God?” How is it that we, as human beings, know anything about God?  Your answer to this question is vitally important, because it sets the stage for everything else that we are going to explore.

As Christians, we believe that we can know about God and who He says He is by reading the holy scriptures He has given us: the Bible.

What is the Bible?  It is a collection of 66 “books” written by upwards of 40 different authors over the course of perhaps 2000 years, in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), directed and given by God to reveal Himself to us.

You might be thinking, “How can that possibly be the work of God, when you just said it was written by all different people over a huge amount of time?”  That’s a good question, one that goes to the heart of the question of reliability.  To be reliable we want evidence that we can trust that what it says is true and trustworthy.

First, let me say that we have more ancient copies of portions of the Bible than we have of any other ancient text. Despite what secularists claim, we have almost no evidence of the message of any part of scripture being deliberately or unconsciously changed over time.[1] 

One of the best tests we have to prove the reliability of scripture is through the evidence of fulfilled prophecy.  The Bible is filled with hundreds upon hundreds of prophecies that were totally and completely fulfilled.  While this project cannot fully identify all the prophecies that were fulfilled, here are just a few to consider:

  1. God told the people of the southern tribes of Judah that they would be taken captive by the   Babylonians (led by Nebuchadnezzar) – see the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies did in fact come and destroyed Jerusalem in 609 BC. 
  2. God predicted that Babylon would rule over the Israelites in captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12) – and Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon exactly 70 years later.
  3. God predicted that there would be 4 great empires: Babylon, represented by the lion with eagles’ wings; a second empire “raised up on one side” that conquered three kingdoms; a third kingdom that would conquer swiftly but then be broken into multiple parts, and a fourth kingdom that would conquer the world and would be the last great empire of man (see Daniel 2:32-33 and Daniel 7).  These perfectly predict the 4 great kingdoms: Babylon; the Medo-Persian Empire (where the Persians were ascendant over the Medes) who conquered the Babylonian, Lydian, and Egyptian empires; the Macedonian empire that rose quickly and was divided into 4 parts after Alexander’s death; and the Roman Empire.
  4. God predicted that Israel would be expelled from the promised land, but that they would be returned, and that the land would be fully restored. In the 20th century, Jews returning to Palestine restored the land and the nation was recreated in one day in 1948.
 Some theologians have also pointed out that the very notion of “standards of truth” come from no other legitimate source but that of God and His word.  Consider our relatively universal assumptions about our life and our universe:

1)      The universe works according to laws that are understandable and that exist virtually everywhere, no matter who is observing.
2)      The human mind must be capable of rational analysis.
3)      Lying is wrong.

If the universe came together by virtue of totally random physical processes, why then would we expect that there should be universal laws that work everywhere?  Why should the world be understandable and logical?  For that matter, why should we be able to understand it at all?  And if what I'm saying about God is a conscious lie, why would that be wrong?[2]  Outside of the standards that God provided for us, we ultimately have a hard time answering the questions listed above. 

We also could look to the thousands upon thousands whose lives have been changed completely by placing their faith in the Word and the God who wrote it.  Ultimately, however, there is nothing that I can say that will convince someone that the Bible is the Word of God if they do not have faith in God in the first place.
It is a matter of faith.  So I'm going to stop trying to persuade.  This is just preliminary, however, to the main question - who is this God that we say we serve? 

How can we serve a God that we don't take the time to get to know?  Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." 

I want us to take a look at who God says He is in His Word.  My starting point is that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God that can be fully trusted and is the basis for my faith. So now, let's start getting to know our great God!

[1] Adapted from The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity, by Alex McFarland. Published by Regal Books, Ventura, Ca., 2007, 1-800-4-GOSPEL,
[2] Jason Lisle, “How to do ‘Foolproof’ Apologetics,” in How do We Know the Bible is True? Vol I, edited by Ken Ham and Bodie Hodge (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2011), chapter 10.

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