Friday, December 29, 2006

If You're Gonna Challenge God For
Proof, Here's How To Do It Properly

I suppose because I've been in the semi-nostalgic thrall of the holidays, I've had people come into my thoughts, folks I haven't seen or contacted for years and years, whose addresses are long lost, who may have been acquaintances more than friends, but ones that connected enough to be remembered.

One was an atheist (no, not the same one I posted about some months ago).

I remembered him telling me that he'd issued a challenge to heaven in his yard one day. Show yourself. Prove to me that you exist.

Well, if I were God, I'd have ignored that sort of hubris, too. God, coming to heel at the bequest of an arrogant unbeliever like some drooling mutt?

Good thing *I* am not the Lord, or there would be more deaths by lightning strikes to the skull among persons shouting in their yards.

While I was remembering, it came to me that he'd not really fashioned the challenge as a true seeker. It was an exercise to prove nothing but the egotism of the person making the challenge. The expectation was to get silence. And silence was given.

(For the story of how this sort of challenge WAS answered, drop by and scour John C. Wright's blog. See my sidebar for a link.)

For anyone who has made that challenge, or has been tempted to, let me suggest a methodology that may prove more fruitful. Of course, only those SINCERELY seeking would take up this challenge, so those interested in posturings in their yards should just stop reading here.

If, however, you really are a seeker, then read on:

I believe God will answer to the call of the humble and sincere seeker, the GENUINELY AND PERSISTENLY seeking soul. That is His promise.

And I've seen it happen, so I am convinced the promise is not mere rhetoric. The promise is in Luke 11:9:

*Seek--truly, whole-heartedly, sincerely, persistently, without ceasing, with no selfish motive, without egotism--and you will find.

*Knock--and knock some more, and crawl to the next door, and never stop knocking--and it will be opened to you.

*Ask in faith and it will be given to you by grace.

Perhaps this is why folks who are at the end of ropes or the bottom of pits are given illumination. They have nothing to lose, so they are ready to give themselves up utterly to the only One who can give them hope and new life.

God never asks less than utter death of his children. Die to live. "Offer yourselves up as a living sacrifice." That's the way and always has been the way. Death to self in order to have God live within and through.

It's about the hardest thing to do. That's why Christians are hardly uniform and perfectly holy. It's a frightful process, sanctification, but needful. We sputter and get waylaid and take breaks, but true believers press on, raggedy or well-dressed, full of strength or limping. We keep going, keep dying, keep living.

But there must first be the desire for God, the God who is.

A verse in Hebrews says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Don't miss out the words "must" and "diligently." They are important. As is "reward."

Or as is spoken in Jeremiah:
You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.

The Lord, in his mysterious grace and for His own holy purposes, sometimes does intrude mightily with signs and wonders, does plop an unbeliever painfully smack in the middle of their own Damascus road. In general, though, the way to find truth is to begin with faith.

Faith that God is in order to have proof that God is.

But He never asks for a lot of faith. A mustard seed's, sizewise, will do nicely.

Seems circular, perhaps, but if one does not believe at all that there is a cure for one's terminal ailment in a bottle down in the cellar with the fearsome guard dog, one will not risk the dog to go down in the cellar to look for the bottle that has the cure for one's ailment. One has, at minimum, to have a grain of faith that the bottle with the pills is there behind the growling canine. One must, at the least, think to oneself, "It must be in the cellar, for I have been repeatedly told it is there, so I will search for it there even if it means the dog will bite off my arm."

Losing an arm to save one's life is not a bad trade-off. I bet many persons with horrible, deadly diseases would make that exchange. Everything worth something carries a risk.

To know God is to risk being consumed by fire.

And yet, consider: Since the vast majority of humankind has had a faith in gods or supernatural forces of immaterial nature, of a "God" from the beginning up to the modern age, then it's worth it to seek out the truth of the matter, whether this otherness to materialism is so.

No other question is nearly as important. Not what to wear or eat, not which career to study or house to buy, not who to date or marry or have children with. All those are temporal. Knowing the truth about God--ie, whether or not He is--would have ramifications beyond a mere lifetime. That makes it issue number one.

And so, yes, begin with faith. Or at least, with the kind of humility that is appropriate in the face of the possibility of a vast, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal Being.

If you are one willing to make the challenge, then do it right. Do it genuinely. Do it worthily. Do it with the sort of stakes that leave no doubt about the seriousness of the matter..

Kneel. In your yard or your room or by the sea, kneel. Then lift up your hands in supplication. Say the following and mean it: "God, I want to know You. Show yourself to me. I am willing to give away everything I own, spend the rest of my life celibate and in service to the poor. I will do whatever you ask of me. I will kneel three times a day to worship you in public every day for the rest of my life. All of this I'll commit to, if you will but show yourself to me as real and living. Help me in my unbelief."

Whatever you enjoy most or want most from life--success in your field, financial security, erotic love, good health, appreciation--be utterly prepared to sacrifice it. Then see what happens.

But really be willing to give it up. That's the clincher.

You want the ultimate knowledge of the universe? Stand ready to lose everything for it. Take everything you value and offer it up and say, "I want to know YOU more than I want all this."

Now that's the sort of petition that has been shown to move the mighty heart of God to respond. A true seeker of humble disposition who is willing to lay it all down. Everything. Everything to know Him and follow.

When you make the challenge: Do it right.

Otherwise, it's just a bunch of silly, prideful words tossed up into the night and worth nothing more than to be trampled on by a God who deserves much more.

If you really take on the challenge, let me know how His voice comes to you.

I already know how it sounds to me.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's nice for a Christian to dream about killing people who don't believe the same as you do.
I don't think so, I'm atheist.

Mirtika said...

Well, there ya go. You totally missesd the point. And the tone of that particular sentence.


Carmen Andres said...

mir, i really loved reading this post. it made me get off the couch and go look up something i'd read in john r.w. stott's clasic, "basic christianity," where he invited people to consider perhaps Christianity is true, to seek with a curious and genuine heart, that God honors an earnest search, that one could perhaps start with a prayer like this: "God, if you exist (and I don't know if you do), and if you can hear this prayer (and I don't know if you can), I want to tell you that I am an honest seeker after the truth. Show me if Jesus is your Son and the Saviour of the world. And if you bring conviction to my mind, I will trust him as my Savior and follow him as my Lord." looks like great minds think a like (you and Stott, that is :) happy new year, mir. blessings, carmen

Mirtika said...

Well, I'm certainly no Stott, but the grand gentleman and I have known the same God, so I guess we got an idea of what He honors. :)

Happy New Year, dear Carmencita.