I had a past student phone me last night. He phoned at 00:30 to warn me about the state that South Africa was in and that I should be making plans to leave. We spoke for a good two and a half hours, but we didn't spend the whole time discussing politics. In fact, one of the main reasons he phoned was to discuss a book on Christianity I had lent him while he was still at school.
As a highly intelligent young man, he preceded to probe my thoughts on a god, or gods, the possibility of a multiverse, quantum theory and evolution to name a few. I am well read enough to know at least a bit about some of the stuff he was speaking about and engaged him as best I could. He told me that he was convinced that there was a god or at least some sort of intelligent designer who had made our universe, but that in all likelihood there were another "gods" who had made the other universes that existed in our multiverse.
Although he has read the Bible (in multiple translations) it seems that just one god doesn't fit what scientific evidence appears to be saying about evolution and the probability of a multiverse. At this point it necessary for me to say outright that, from a scientific standpoint, I don't have a clue about the probability of a multiverse. I haven't read nearly enough in this area to even consider myself vaguely competent to argue on the topic. All I could do was speak from personal experience about my understanding of things. So that's what I did.
I told him that as a person brought up as a Christian I always understood in my head what I was hearing. There is a God. He has a Son who He sent to earth to die for our sins, and there is a Holy Spirit. There are commandments that we should try and keep and there were many interesting people and battles and things that happened in the Bible. But outside of that, I pretty much just got on with life, a life that was Christian by title, but not so much in belief or because I had any kind of relationship with The Lord. I then explained how four years ago I had an encounter with The Lord for the first time. He knows me as a very thoughtful, logical person in my own right, so to explain how I experienced The Lord for the first time as knowing without question that He existed and that I was loved must have sounded a little crazy.
The craziest thing for him to wrap his head around was how, in that instant, I just knew that God was real, took the Bible word for word on faith and chucked out my belief in evolution. He simply couldn't believe that any logical person could not believe in evolution, simply because they felt some love. I told him that it wasn't only because I felt love, but also because I knew in my heart of hearts that God was real. And if He is real, then the Bible is real and not just a collection of stories. And if the Bible is real then I couldn't believe in what it says and believe in evolution at the same time.
Having read John C. Lennox's God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? I asked if he had heard about aunt Matilda's cake.
Perhaps a simple illustration will help convince us that science is limited. Let us imagine that my Aunt Matilda has baked a beautiful cake and we take it along to be analyzed by a group of the world’s top scientists. I, as master of ceremonies, ask them for an explanation of the cake and they go to work. The nutrition scientists will tell us about the number of calories in the cake and its nutritional effect; the biochemists will inform us about the structure of the proteins, fats etc. in the cake; the chemists, about the elements involved and their bonding; the physicists will be able to analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles; and the mathematicians will no doubt offer us a set of elegant equations to describe the behaviour of those particles. Now that these experts, each in terms of his or her scientific discipline, have given us an exhaustive description of the cake, can we say that the cake is completely explained? We have certainly been given a description of how the cake was made and how its various constituent elements relate to each other, but suppose I now ask the assembled group of experts a final question: Why was the cake made? The grin on Aunt Matilda’s face shows she knows the answer, for she made the cake, and she made it for a purpose. But all the nutrition scientists, biochemists, chemists, physicists and mathematicians in the world will not be able to answer the question –and it is no insult to their disciplines to state their incapacity to answer it. Their disciplines, which can cope with questions about the nature and structure of the cake, that is, answering the ‘how’ questions, cannot answer the ‘why’ questions connected with the purpose for which the cake was made. 20 In fact, the only way we shall ever get an answer is if Aunt Matilda reveals it to us. But if she does not disclose the answer to us, the plain fact is that no amount of scientific analysis will enlighten us. To say with Bertrand Russell that, because science cannot tell us why Aunt Matilda made the cake, we cannot know why she made it, is patently false. All we have to do is ask her. The claim that science is the only way to truth is a claim ultimately unworthy of science itself. – John C. Lennox
He said that he had, so I said to him that knowing everything we know about the universe can't necessarily explain why it was created. I asked him why he thought that the universe and everything had been created, but he wasn't sure himself, so I said to him that if there is a god of the universe and we can know him, then perhaps we should be asking questions like "Why did He create everything?" And "What is He saying to us?"
And now the point of the whole post. He asked: "Do you think I will ever experience God?" Or perhaps it was "Do you think I will ever encounter God?" I forget his exact words, but the essence of it was wanting to know if I thought it was possible that the God of the universe would ever speak to him or interact with him personally. I told him that if he sought after it, it would happen.
It really made me think about my own way of thinking before I personally met The Lord four years ago. I had all the facts, I had it all worked out in my way of thinking, I had my way of explaining how it all worked. And it all seemed to fit. Even when I started going to church regularly again, it's not like my explanation of everything changed much in the beginning, rather it was that I had put myself into a space where I was at least willing to listen to other ideas. Gradually I began to read my bible on a regular basis and I started to really wrestle with and question what I was reading. I began to pray. And after all of that, when I did encounter The Lord personally, I knew it was for real.
I think for many logical thinkers and intellectuals, it's hard to let go of the facts that seem so rock solid. It's hard to let go of something that forms the foundation of your belief. And often, it's hard to let go of something that, in some way, forms part of who you are. It's like cutting away part of your personality, something that's really hard to do because it's just so familiar.
But if we really are truth seekers then we must at least be open to the possibility that there's stuff out there we don't know. I love the story about asking a person if they know everything of all there is to know. No, not everything. Well, what about half of everything there is to know? Probably not. Well then, is it possible that God exists in the other half?
There are so many "compelling" facts and theories, but in the end, some of what we know has to come down to personal experience. I told this young man that I didn't know about all the theories, but that I have had very real experiences of God that I know are real. I shared how on a mission trip to Brazil I had prayed for a man who's left arm was shaking because he had Parkinson's disease. As I prayed once, twice, three times, his arm shook less and less until it stopped shaking entirely. I told him, that wasn't me. I said: "You know me. You know I can't heal Parkinson's. So who did?" When The Lord becomes real to us in this way, it's hard to be moved in your faith.
One thing I know is that The Lord wants everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). He is so willing to give wisdom (James 1:5) if we just get out of our own heads and stop leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I think at some point we just have to accept that His ways are higher than our ways and that there are just some things we will never know. We can, however, know Him personally and if we give Him a chance He will meet us wherever we are. Seek Him and you will find Him.