In recent years I have been teaching courses online for a secular university. My students want to gain an understanding of what I call the truth about life. But sometimes, it gets to be very difficult for them to discern just what might be the truth. For many, it’s a matter of evidence.
The reason is that there are many competing voices which claim to be the truth or which attempt in various ways to deny that we can ever actually know the truth. Instead, these voices tell us that it is hopeless to figure out where truth is to be found in our world. One day, a student asked me in our online classroom, “So here is a very big question – Is it better to become one with god (therefore becoming god) or to serve God and bask in his glory for eternity?” We were discussing the teachings of various Eastern religions at the time and he wanted to compare what we were learning about Buddhism in particular with what he could recall he had been taught in a Christian church as a youth.
The question he asked was difficult to answer in the context of the secular university. There we, as faculty, tend to try to keep our religious commitments to ourselves. To do otherwise is to proselytize which is frowned upon as not being academically sound. What has taken place over the years is that the many different universities in the world have made a commitment to doubting anything which is not scientifically or rationally provable. In the secular university, there are only two ways to gain knowledge that is solid and worthy of being called truth. The first method is by means of carefully evaluating evidence that shows the matter under consideration is true. The so-called scientific method of investigating the world fits into this mold. The second is by the careful, systematic rational evaluation of an existing object or an historical thought can lead to the truth. This is the way that many in the fields of literature and history develop their theories and conclusions.
The problem is that neither of these ways of addressing the reality we find around us will give a reliable way of knowing God. God cannot be known by means of the scientific method nor of a rational, cognitive approach to our world. We end up with the evidence pointing to two irrefutable conclusions: ‘If God is good, God is not great. If God is great, God is not good.” This is where the evidence points when we approach it from a rational point of view.
God is not Found by Dissecting Scientific Evidence
So we, who are people of faith, need to take a different approach. This is the approach of faith. We who are people of faith begin by saying as the Bible does, “In the beginning, God…” We start from the point which can posit the truth that God is real and God is active in the world. That is a matter of faith. Faith is the source of the evidence. Faith is the basis for the (apparently) irrational statement that God is real.
The issue then becomes which God we find taught by various spiritual leaders in the world is the true God? Hence the question from my student. The course we were studying was called “Religions of the World.” During the course of a mere nine weeks, we were looking at the central teachings of a total of twelve different religious faiths broadly speaking. He wanted to know which one was the truth. Why spend his time wandering around in darkness when he could just ask me and get right to the truth?
His question is similar to the story told by one of the students at Christian Leaders Institute. The student writes,
My faith in Christ really flourished just a couple of years ago. I’ve always known of him, but now I know that I never knew him. And since I was just a toddler, I’ve always felt this strong pull towards the light…but refused to surrender until a couple years ago when the world was no longer a distraction for me. I was in jail. I had never been arrested before until the end of 2009, and for the next year and a half to follow, I continued to get in extreme trouble. I didn’t care about myself. Why? Because at that point in my life, nobody in my life cared about me, so why should I care about me? So I fell apart.
How does one find the truth? What is the truth? Jesus tells us that we can know the truth and the truth will set us free. (The Gospel of John chapter 8) Then later he explains, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John ch 14) Jesus is the One who embodies in himself the truth of who God is. He embodies the truth of what God is like. He tells us, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John ch 14) Taken all together, what we discover is that in order for us to know what way to follow, we need to give up our ideas of how we can discover God on our own. Instead, we need to rely on Jesus who is the One who reveals God to us. We cannot experimentally prove God to the scientist who demands proof in a laboratory. We cannot rationally prove God to someone who demands that we be entirely logical and committed to rationality alone. No, we lay hold of Jesus by faith. We know him by seeing his work in our lives and in the lives of other Christians. And by means of his Word, the Holy Bible, we know the True God. (John ch 17)
At Christian Leaders Institute, we are committed to training our students to know God from his Word as they see Him at work in their lives. We do so in order to give the students the training they need to help others who are still in darkness to find the light that is seen in Jesus. He alone is the Light of the World. (John Ch 8)