How can we know God? This question comes up when I teach Life and Doctrine more than any other. We, having been brought up under the tutelage of a thorough-going secularism, want a sort of logical, mathematical proof of God's existence. They're asking, "How can I get from where I am up to truth about God?" The truth is that this question is almost completely backwards.
Luckily, we're not the first humans in history to think about this. About 500 years ago the writers of the Belgic Confession stated:
[We know God] first, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God... Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word... [note] The Belgic Confession, Article 2. [/note]
Knowing God starts when we shed the Scientistic vision of the world and embrace a revelational view. It's not that Christians should dislike science. It's that we cannot believe that science is the best way to know all things. The Belgic Confession reminds us that God has given us the world and His Word not as clues, but as books. We're not trapped in a cosmic version of Law and Order, piecing together the clues of a God in hiding. The Christian must flip that script. God is speaking to us through these two books—through revelation.
Here are a few reasons this matters:
Revelation Changes the Questions We Ask
Because we understand the world is made by God, we understand that the world and the Word both speak to us about God. Therefore, the question we ask goes from "Where is God," to "What does x say about God?"
Revelation Begets Humility, Scientism Begets Pride
If the world is designed to speak to us about God, then we know Him because He revealed Himself. If Scientistic speculation is the greatest epistemological framework, then knowledge of God (or anything else) is obtained because we were smart enough to look for it.
Revelation Explains Science
Dr. John Lennox, in a debate with infamous atheist, Richard Dawkins, attempted to explain this to his opponent by saying, "You've got to believe in the rational intelligibility of the universe before you can do any science at all. Science doesn't give you that." [note]John Lennox. The God Delusion Debate, hosted by Fixed Point Foundation. Birmingham, AL, 2006.[/note] One has to believe that the universe is orderly, fixed, and law-like for science to get moving in the first place — a belief that was supplied buy the worldview of Christian revelation, creating the conditions necessary for the scientific revolution to happen at all.
Paul Davies, theoretical physicist and one of the most influential expositors of modern science agrees, saying:
Science is based on the assumption [on faith!] that the universe is thoroughly rational and logical at all levels... Atheists claim that the laws [of nature] exist reasonlessly and that the universe is ultimately absurd. As a scientist, I find this hard to accept. There must be an unchanging rational ground in which the logical, orderly nature of the universe is rooted.[note]Paul Davies, "What Happened Before the Big Bang?” in God for the 21st Century, ed. Russell Stannard (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000), 12.[/note]
Here's the big take home: God isn't playing a game of cosmic keep-away. God is very interested in revealing Himself to us. The only question is whether or not we'll receive the knowledge the world and the Word give us as genuine knowledge, or just speculation.