Some time ago I wrote a book. In it I wanted to address some misconceptions about knowing God, the Bible, biblical covenants and assorted topics. Some of the topics I wanted to address were fairly controversial, with strongly entrenched positions on every side.
But there was one thing I noticed about the arguments. Each side had found a philosophical foothold, built up grand arguments to defend it - like the walls of a castle on a mountaintop - and then proceeded to shoot their theological guns at every other theological castle.
Usually these footholds which became castles were specific passages from the Bible, or denominational teachings. The one castle was based on one scripture, the other on a apparently contradictory scripture, so each was able to claim for himself the honor of being "biblical."
Frankly, I had no desire to build my own castle and join the war. But how could I determine truth without taking the course I just described?
As I thought about it I realized that I and everyone else I've ever met approaches every possible question through filters that have been laid on us by our culture, background, experiences and teachers. No one ever sets out to discover truth or to learn to know God with a clean slate. There is nothing wrong with that. I should respect what good people have taught me, for example, but it does mean that I start out with certain assumptions.
In this article, as well as on this website I am going to knowingly use two main assumptions. The first is that God is. The best argument for the existence of someone we cannot - at this time - see, is through experience. We will talk about our experience of God, of Jesus Christ, on this website. This is fair, as every atheist argues out of his experience as well, ie.: "I've never seen God." Just as with the wind, the experience, the observed effects, proves existence.
And the second is that the Bible, both old and new covenants (Testaments) is the revelation of God to humanity. I do have good reason for this assumption, a great deal of external evidence that backs that up, but I am not going to use this platform to defend it. If you aren't sure on this point, there are plenty of other good sources to check out.
So how can one cut through the fog and find what is right? May I suggest a general path to follow that will lead us, if not to the truth as God sees it, at least as close to it as possible?
Here's the path to follow for knowing God: What was God's original intention for ___ (fill in the blank), or, if applicable, how was it in the beginning (ie.: what was the original plan or the original design).
Until we discover what the Lord God intended in creating us, until we understand what he intends to have come out of his dealings with us, we will not be in any condition to discover how his words, his covenants and his commandments are to be understood and obeyed.
All this is important, because if you are like me, you want to know God as he really is, not just as you have imagined him. On that note, here is some really good advice for taking the first steps towards knowing God.
The most foundational question towards discovering God's underlining intent for any given topic would be this: What did God purpose when he created us? Why did he place us on this earth to do or be? What are his priorities and what is he wanting to get out of our lives? Knowing the answer to this question positions us correctly for asking further questions.
Over and over again people say to me, "there's nothing wrong with my life, I'm a good person. I always try to treat people right, what more can God expect of me?"
If God is looking for that, then that's a fine philosophy of life. If not, then we are headed down the wrong road already.
Actually, it isn't primarily a "good life," that God is looking for in us, nor does he owe us a "good life," despite what even many popular Christian books seem to hint at today. Rather, what God is looking for is a life lived "with God, by faith." It is truly all about knowing God and living day by day with him.
Strangely, the Bible is not a very good theological book. I mean, it is not organized systematically, it is not too concerned with teaching doctrine or exactly what we are supposed to believe. And this is the source of the many different opinions about God and what he wants.
Why is that? Well, most of us approach the Bible expecting a direct answer because that is the way we were trained to think. We want the book to say, "This is how to know God, this is what he wants." That is our greek rationalistic thinking coming through. But the Bible is not written in our culture or mindset. It was written according to an ancient Hebrew way of thinking, which is much different.
I'll be giving a lot more input on this later, but for now, I'll just say that the Bible doesn't put so much emphasis on correct thinking as on correct being. It is very down-to-earth. If you say you believe something, but don't live it, you don't really believe it.
So, if you say, show me a statement in the Bible, a passage, a verse, that explains in clear language exactly what God's intent is, his purpose with creation, then you will look a long time. God gives us many hints, some statements that you can bite into, but not always in the way we are used to seeing it. God shows us what he is about by what he does, just as much as by what he says.
The other main emphasis of Hebrew thinking, of the Bible itself, is relationship. God is a relational God.
For this reason we can discover as much about what God's purposes and values are by looking at how he related to the significant people of the Bible as we can by finding specific statements. In fact, to show that God's main purpose is his love for us, let's do just that, rather than quoting John 3:16 or other such verses, which say things like, "for God so loved the world..."
I spent some time looking at the significant people of the Bible. You can read about it here. What I found out is that what made them special was not their "holiness," or even that they were super obedient and sinless. But through story after story, what stands out is that they knew and loved God.
Noah - it was because he already was on speaking terms with God that he could hear the command to build the ark.
Abraham - he trusted God thoroughly, enough to leave everything and start new. He was called the lover of God in Isaiah 41:8 (the word friend in Hebrew is ahev, which primarily means lover.)
Moses - God spoke to him face to face, as a friend, much differently than the way he spoke to everyone else at that time, as he himself said in Numbers 12:6-8.
King David - This guy was a big sinner (try murder, adultery among other things) yet God called him a man after his own heart. How is that possible? It is because David trained his heart to long after God. He was a lover who occasionally let his hot-blooded, impulsive temperament get the best of him. But the big thing is, when he realized what he'd done wrong, he immediately ran back to God. He knew beyond question that he would be forgiven, because he knew God's love for him was unconditional.
These guys all truly knew God, not just as GOD, THE GREAT AND UNKNOWABLE, but as God, who himself draws near to us to show us who he is. His nature is love. He loves being in constant contact and continual fellowship with us. He is the kindest person you could ever meet.
"Then why does he seem so angry all the time, especially in the Old Testament?" That's a good question, and we'll get to it in the section on the Old Testament. For now, I'll answer it with another question. Do loving parents ever get thoroughly riled up and angry when their children ignore them and do something dangerous and potentially self-destructive?
God is love. That's not a description, it's a statement about his being. He is love personified, though bigger and purer and more wholesome than what we humans often display as love.
And that's why he made us, this world. It is to give us a chance and a choice to find him and choose to love him. It was to give us a chance to really get to know God.
Why doesn't he show himself openly and clearly if he wants friendship with us so much? The fact is, true love requires freedom. If he did that, he would overwhelm us with his power and greatness. For true love to develop, we all need the time and space to discover him.
All that is required is the hunger, the desire to go on a journey of discovery of God himself. He promised many times, "if you seek me, you will find me." (Jeremiah 29:13)
He wants us to get a determined look in our eyes and take the time to search for him like we would for buried treasure. He is the greatest treasure of all!
This introduction to knowing God has just scratched the surface. There will be much more. But hopefully these few basic facts will open the door to knowing God. This page touched on the basics. We will gradually go deeper and talk about how we can practically know him, establish contact on a daily basis and even learn how to hear God speak to us.
Yes, that's right, the real God, the creator of all that is WILL speak to you too, if you seek him.