Monday, November 2, 2009

Testing the God Hypothesis

As I've said before, I believe that God works miracles. The reason why I have that belief is simple; I've seen God work miracles in my life and in the lives of my friends. I've heard arguments to convince people that God exists and that he performs miracles, but I don't find them especially convincing. I think it's something that people need to see for themselves.

To that end, I offer the following advice to anyone who may be wondering whether or not God actually exists. You should try asking God to reveal himself to you. First ask for a sign that God exists or perhaps for some small miracle. Then keep your eyes open and see what happens.

Something might happen right away, but in my experience these things often take time. If you feel like nothing's happening, you can try again. If you feel like maybe something's happening, but you're not sure, try asking God to be more clear.

Some people might think that asking God for a sign like this is putting God to the test. But, so long as you're honestly seeking God, merely asking for a sign isn't putting God to the test.

To understand why, we need to look at why that command was given. God gave Israel this command after an incident in Exodus 17. Reading the passage we see that the Israelites demanded that Moses give them water to drink. Some people jump to the conclusion that they put God to the test by demanding that God perform a sign, but that's not all that's going on here.

In the text it says that they tested God by asking, "Is God with us or not?" This passage comes after God sends plagues on Egypt. It comes after the Israelites are rescued out of Egypt. It comes after they've passed through the Red Sea. It even comes after God has sent Mana to feed them. The real reason why they're putting God to the test is that, after seeing all of that, they still doubt that God is with them. They test God because they don't believe in his goodness even after all that he has done for them.

In fact, as we look through the Bible we see that in some cases, not asking for a sign can get you in trouble. In Isaiah 7, God tells King Ahaz to ask for a sign, anything he wants. King Ahaz politely declines, saying that he doesn't want to put God to the test. Isaiah takes issue with his response, and with good reason.

The whole point of God offering King Ahaz a sign is that God knows that King Ahaz is in a tough spot and is about to make a bad decision. Two neighboring kingdoms have made an alliance against Judah (Ahaz's Kingdom) and are preparing to attack. God tells Ahaz not to worry and, since he knows that King Ahaz has little faith, he offers to give King Ahaz a sign. King Ahaz refuses God and asks Assyria to help instead.

The common thread in both of those stories is that they refuse to trust God. In the former case they refuse to trust God despite everything that God has done for them. In the later case the King refuses to trust God even though God offers to perform a great miracle for him.

The last example that I want to give comes from the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 4 Satan tempts Jesus by suggesting that he jump from the roof of the temple and count on God to save him. Jesus refuses to put God to the test. This is because Jesus does trust God, and he doesn't need some dramatic, supernatural rescue to prove that God is good.

That's why I think it's okay to ask God for a sign. For people who don't believe in God it can even be a good thing. It gives God an opportunity to reveal himself, and it gives you a chance to learn that God is good and that he can be trusted.

So, does anyone feel up for trying it? Leave a comment and let me know how it goes.

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