I do not mean this in any sort of sacrilegious way, but - here it is - how do you know God exists? Maybe this life is all there is. How do you know otherwise?
Now, let me say I am not a stranger to Christianity. When I was in college, I used to hang out with the Bible study crowd. I've said the prayer where you ask the Lord into your heart. I have even been baptized. And yet it's like there's something holding me back. I've never experienced a revelation, never heard a voice in my head. So how do you know? How do I know that people who claim to have a "personal relationship with God" are not just deluding themselves? Or maybe it's just that God is not talking to me.
Okay, I will admit I am a scientist by training - I am a chemist and a college professor. So when scientists talk about the age of the earth being a certain number of years (that's just an example) I'm inclined to believe them. Radioactive decay follows certain mathematics.
And yet I think the biggest proof of God comes from science as well. I've read a little biology - not a lot - but enough to know that biological processes are tremendously complex. And I think there's so much about it that we don't have a clue. And someone's going to tell me that evolved naturally? That's like finding a computer processor chip in the desert (the silicon in the chip ultimately comes from sand) and saying that happened all by itself. Come on!
I talked about this with my pastor once - and he didn't give the answer I thought he would. He said, "you're right, there is no direct proof."
I've attended this church longer than I have any other. I like this pastor and his messages. And yet I am still grappling with the 1 or 2 percent of myself (or perhaps more) that basically says I am deluding myself.
I've half-prayed for God to reveal himself to me, but then the other half is scared of what might happen. Be careful what you wish for, you might get it. Prayers like that have a way of being answered not quite the way you intended.
Can you share any wisdom on this subject?
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Romans 1:18-21).
You are quite correct that there are all sorts of clues in the world that the world had to have been made. I disagree with the age of the earth, however. There are many methods available to estimate the age of the planet, yet evolutionists latch on to those which give them the largest values. But this bias is to be expected since their belief system requires very large amounts of time to even become faintly possible. It isn't the mathematics that is the problem. It is the assumptions made before the math is applied. For several papers on this topic, see: Radiometric Dating.
There are other ways to see evidence of God. Arnold Schnabel wrote a wonderful little book called "Has God Spoken" about facts mentioned in the Bible that we now know are true but which contradicted the current belief when it was written. The link has several examples.
It is not the quantity of evidence that appears to be the problem. It seems you allow doubt in, despite the evidence, because you don't have direct evidence. In this, you are placing a greater requirement than you do with many things in your life. You've never seen an electron, proton, or quark, but you believe quite firmly that they exist. You have no direct evidence, but the quantity of evidence convinces you that these must exist. You might never have visited Sidney, Australia, but there is no questioning whether it exists because you accept the evidence that such a place must exist. You know that George Washington once was president of the United States, but you can't prove it by direct evidence, yet we don't doubt that it was true.
It is the rejection of evidence that gives rise to people claiming that man didn't really walk on the moon or that there must be space aliens that the government is hiding. We chuckle at the foolishness but never look at our own rejection of evidence.
I get annoyed at religions that alter God's teachings because the alterations introduce falsehoods which allows doubt to enter. For example, people have been ignoring God's statement that prophecy and miraculous gifts would end (I Corinthians 13:8-10). It doesn't stop people from claiming they have these gifts despite the evidence. "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (II Thessalonians 2:9-10). That is why Jesus said that such people were not being obedient to God. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23). Then when people come along and wonder why they aren't receiving miraculous revelations like other people claim to have, they begin to doubt God, never realizing that the falsehood isn't with God but with those twisting God's teachings.
As another example, do you realize there is no prayer of asking Jesus into your hearts in the Bible to be saved? It is something made up, but so widely accepted that people don't even think to question it.
God has revealed Himself to you and everyone else in the world. But like the disciples, people don't see the evidence right in front of them. "Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves" (John 14:8-11).
Faith is examining all the evidence available and trusting that the obvious conclusion must be the correct answer. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). From the very creation of the world, God has always asked men to trust Him. The ability to trust in truth is a critical characteristic that God is looking for in His children. "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" (Hebrews 11:6).
My confidence, my trust, my faith, doesn't rest on nothing. I've looked at the evidence from many viewpoints. It all points solidly that God exists and that the Bible is God's Word to mankind.
"Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:21-22).