If this is how you are feeling, it makes sense to dig into this instinct and see if this objection to faith can withstand a rigorous investigation. Let’s start by considering some of the main reasons why the search for God seems strange and even impossible.
Practically speaking, we all run into a number of intellectual hurdles in our search for God. For instance:
- According to one website, there are 38,000 Christian denominations in the world today.
- Hinduism teaches that there are 330 million deities, “a figure symbolizing infinity.”
- There are “19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones.”
With all of this diversity, who has the time to sort through all the options?
God is BIG
Just thinking about “God” is a challenge. The idea of “God” seems to imply something or someone who is way, way beyond us.
Given that God is so much higher than us, it can seem presumptuous to say we know what God is like – or what the gods are like. Even the Bible seems to suggest this idea at times. As Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” On first glance, these words can discourage us from trying to figure out who God is.
Where is God?
Another problem is trying to figure out where God might be. Is “God” in everything? Is God somewhere out among the stars – or beyond the universe itself? Has God visited earth? Where do you go to start looking for God or the gods?
All of the options, the daunting nature of inquiring into the existence of a super-being like God, and the challenge of knowing where to start can lead us to frustration and despair, and to conclude that spiritual matters are just a mystery.
But there is hope. Why? Because we can apply certain rational filters to our search.
Some rational filters to consider:
1. If or when we find God, we don’t need to continue searching through all the other possibilities for who God is or might be. This is common sense: if you are looking for your keys, and you find them, there’s no point in continuing to look for them.
2. We should prefer having a relationship with God if God is loving and caring. After all, if God is cruel and hateful, that’s too bad, but there wouldn’t be all that much we could do about it. On the other hand, if God loves us and wants to help us out, then the sooner we know about God, the better off we are.
3. If there is a God, and this God is loving and caring, then it makes sense that this God would want people to have information about this Being’s nature and actions. We should expect that a loving God would be more likely to be known and loved by a significant percentage of the world population.
4. The world’s largest religion, by far, is Christianity. There are 40% more Christians than there are adherents of Islam, the world’s second largest religion. Taking stock of the “wisdom of the crowds” means there’s good reason to consider whether or not all of these people are onto something.
5. Christianity teaches that God does love us and wants to have a relationship with us, which fits with our other rational filters about the best way to start an investigation of God’s existence.
6. Christianity teaches that God has revealed himself in history, especially through the person of Jesus Christ. If Jesus really was God, this would imply that God is both knowable and findable.
7. Christianity teaches that the primary validation of Jesus’ identity as God is his bodily resurrection from the dead. Surely if anyone came back to life after being dead then we have some good reason to think we have identified a pretty strong contender for God. The historical nature of this question further limits the scope of what we need to research.
Of course, none of these filters logically implies that Jesus is God! That’s not the point. The point is that we don’t have to get stuck with the idea that “God is a mystery.” Instead, we can be encouraged that there are certain kinds of rational filters which allow us to systematically evaluate the different ways in which God may have revealed some kind of message to us.
At the end of your search, you still might decide that atheism or agnosticism, or Islam or Confucianism is the most rational perspective. But you will be far more educated, culturally aware, and well-informed for having conducted an investigation in the first place.
So don’t hide behind the idea that “spiritual things are a big mystery” to avoid the hard and careful work of answering such an important question. If there is a God who can be known, that is one of the most important things to know! If there isn’t, that makes a big difference too. Either way, we need to make an informed decision.