In the previous section we looked at a definition and meaning for truth and the conclusion was that in order for “truth” to become “the Truth”, we need to hinge it on an objective, external reference point. No doubt my closing statement led you to assume that this external reference point would be “God”. However, I promised not to make any assumptions along the way, so this section is dedicated to addressing the inevitable questions, “Which God?” and “What kind of God?” I am talking about. If we are talking about an anchor for truth that is a truly unbiased, objective, eternal (unchanging) and moral “external” reference point, then we need to be clear about what this reference point is.
Again, a step-by-step conversation approach to these questions:
- Who is actually the God? Your God, my God, or is everything God?
- Why do we even need God? Hasn’t religion caused all the world’s conflicts? The answer to the meaning of life is not 42.
- Is God even knowable? God lives in a galaxy near, near away
- If there is a God, what kind of God is he? God, by his own definition
1. Your God, my God, or is everything God?
If we accept that there is a God, and that without him even the concept of truth becomes meaningless it begs the question, “which God?” Is there one God or are there many gods? Is God male or female, good or evil? History is full of myths and legends, made up by men to explain the things they cannot understand, so how do we assess the truth about God? Do all roads lead to Rome when it comes to a spiritual journey? These are questions that I find are easy to answer but harder to “prove”. I will start by making the reasonable assumption that we agree on a definition of God where he/she/it must be all-present, all-powerful and all-knowing. Anything less than that and he/she/it cannot, by definition, be God (sure anyone or anything can claim to be God, but in order to actually be a God, you need to conform to some entrance criteria or we again drift off the playing field).
Equally importantly, God must be truthful, and any attempts to know him must be based on absolute truths or we are simply dealing with flights of fancy. Someone can believe in a “Big Santa Claus In The Sky” but if that very idea is proven false or illogical, then what have we gained other than to deceive ourselves by swallowing a spiritual placebo? What if it turns out that God is actually a “Grim Reaper in The Sky” and hence you got your approach all wrong (no doubt with dire consequences to your eternal soul, should it come to that). Knowing the Truth about God is essential to any discourse on this subject; the two cannot be separated nor can they contradict one another; the moment your “Deity of Choice in the Sky” becomes illogical or untruthful, it creates a logical inconsistency and a moral dilemma. After all, who wants to believe in a lie?
This means that – respectfully – we cannot seriously consider “faiths” that require you to believe things that are illogical or obviously untrue i.e. the Hindu scriptures hold that Lord Vishnu, the protector and caretaker of all creation, sleeps in the middle of a vast ocean on the giant snake Sheshnaga; or that God sprouts multiple heads out of lust/envy at his own creation and then goes to war with himself and cuts off one of his multiple heads (this is just an example of one of many such fantastic stories). There is no logical, reasonable or scientific basis for holding such views; I would add further that these ideas are not helpful in terms of any serious engagement about God and no doubt it’s for reasons like this that some people make a mockery of “religion” as a whole (b.t.w. I am not here to defend religion – that’s a separate point dealt with later). I don’t doubt that elements of truth can be found in Hinduism and perhaps have since been distorted. But since we are concerning ourselves here with the absolute baseline for the Truth, approximations, let alone distortions, simply won’t do. For this reason I hold that Hinduism does not produce satisfactory answers.
Similarly, we cannot take seriously the Greek myths and legends because they depict many gods who are often petty in their behaviour or morally inferior to man. The exhibit either a random moral code or an inferior moral code to man (now that is saying a lot!). A “true” God who is both greater than the universe he created and concerned with the importance of Truth, would abide above such petty states of thought and behaviour and therefore we must abandon a notion of a pantheon of gods where they possess no noble attributes other than strength and destructive power.
The idea that “everything is God” stems from Buddhism and if we follow this train of thought to it’s logical conclusion, it must simultaneously conclude that “nothing is God”. That is, of course, if we hold to a reasonable definition of God that he must be all-wise, all-powerful and all-knowing and not just a state of mind. I’m not sure how you are feeling today, but it won’t take me long to eliminate myself as a candidate for God. If we wanted to take this argument further, it leaves us either with infinite gods, which is no different to no gods at all (since we’re all the same, it resets the baseline), or with a completely impersonal god that has no will or purpose or design, which is equally void of any meaning. Having a God devoid of will or purpose is again conceptually no different to having no God at all. Consider this quote from the Buddhist society: “The word Buddha means The Awakened One, coming from the Sanskrit root budh – ‘to wake’. He is a man who has woken fully, as if from a deep sleep, to discover that suffering, like a dream, is over.” I think that anyone who has truly awoken and been enlightened will quickly realise that this is false – suffering is very real and permeates our entire lives from beginning to end. Wishing it away and emptying our minds of it does not make it go away. Again, a logical inconsistency which is easy to prove as false.
What about the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam)? Don’t they all believe in the same God? Perhaps, but the nature and approach to this God couldn’t be more different among them. The Islamic tradition is based on Fatalism i.e. whatever Allah wills, will be and we have no control or influence over that. The Jewish tradition is based on Legalism i.e. obedience to God’s laws is paramount, disobedience is punishable sin. The Christian tradition is based on Grace i.e. we are all sinners alienated from God and it is only through the undeserved initiative of God towards us (grace) that reconciliation can take place.
If we distil this further, we can ascertain which of these traditions is logically the most sensible in terms of reconciling God, Man and Truth, without compromising any one of these elements. Why do I say this? If God is compromised, then by definition he is not God. If Man is compromised, it will end in our destruction since we would find ourselves at war with God. If truth is compromised, then we are but again dealing with flights of fancy and this discourse is meaningless because it would be based on at best half truths and at worst falsehoods. So, whichever belief system we choose to employ, it must be tested against these principles to see whether it could even “work” in the simple sense of balancing an a + b = c equation. Performing this analysis purely on the basis of logic should in turn tell us which belief system holds the most truth (rather, The Truth), since going back to my earlier point, the “purest” truth will point us most clearly to the true God.
Thus, if we consider Fatalism as an option, it is not much better than the Greek pantheon, where we are at the will of an unpredictable and temperamental God. Such characteristics and mode of operation do not map logically to a God who has ordered the entire universe with rational laws and written a moral code into all humans through our conscience. He would be a contradiction in terms and hardly worthy of the title of God of All Creation. If we consider Legalism, any attempt by finite, flawed man to live in harmony with an infinite, perfect God based on obedience to a set of laws will surely end in disappointment, even when attempted by the best of us. In the Jewish tradition there are 613 commandments in total and you are already guilty of a transgression just by not knowing that number because it means you’ve likely broken one already! Grace, on the other hand, is based on God taking the initiative and reaching out to man – taking a form that we not only can related to, but also taking the first step towards crossing the chasm between us on our small planet and the highest of heavens where he dwells. Neither Fatalism nor Legalism offers us a clear route to him; Grace at least offers a viable way since it depends not on our ability to reach God, but on God’s ability to reach us. We will look at this in more detail in later points.
Because we can’t discover God by human means, He’s taken the step of revealing Himself to us.
2. The answer to the meaning of life is not 42.
Ask someone who has studied psychology and they will likely tell you that all people – regardless of their background – will wrestle with certain fundamental issues or needs (“Maslow’s hierachy of needs” in “Motivation and Personality”, Abraham H. Maslow; Addison-Wesley Pub Co; 3rd edition; 1987). Once you progress beyond the “basic” human needs – which most people in the First World have no problem meeting and which most in the Developing World spend their days desperately trying to meet – all humans have certain “deeper” needs:
- Purpose – to know that your life has meaning and purpose
- Value – to know your value to yourself and to the world
- Acceptance – to know that you are loved
Once we’ve addressed our basic needs, we begin to wonder about and seek fulfilment of the higher needs. We go about devising comprehensive social and financial safety nets to make us feel secure and we lean on cultural and family traditions to make us feel accepted and valued. But still it’s not enough.
People have gone to war, lied, deceived, hoarded, stolen, lusted, murdered and coveted in vain attempts to climb higher up the needs pyramid only to be disappointed that their lives are not perfectly fulfilled even once they either achieve so-called self-actualisation or very nearly possess all the world (ask your neighbourhood billionaire for his view on this, don’t take my word for it). Others just get married and have kids and hope that this will somehow “fix” things. From what I have stated earlier, trying to exclude God and then collectively “fixing” our own problems hasn’t worked very well historically. Why should we assume it will work any better if we try the same by trying to fix ourselves on an individual basis? The reason is simply because Maslow’s hierarchy is missing an essential piece of the puzzle at its very core, which transcends all 5 layers of the hierarchy and which I’ll call the “God piece”. It runs like a thread from top to bottom, tying everything together.
I would like to submit that without knowing the Designer – the One who fashioned us and who wrote our “owner’s manual”, we will not get to the truth that liberates us and brings us to a place of lasting inner peace and true (agape) love and acceptance – regardless of which of our other needs have been met (or are still unfulfilled). Without an owner’s manual, any meaningful and lasting progress is impossible because even if we could figure out what the missing piece was, we don’t have the means to fill that gap with something earthly – it’s deeply internal to us (in our soul) and not external or even existential. Trying to fix it “on our own” is like trying to do open heart surgery without a medical qualification and no theatre. It’s likely to become a true drama.
Since it is God who created us, He alone knows how to fill the spiritual vacuum in every human heart and gives us true purpose, value and acceptance.
3. God lives in a galaxy near, near away
I hope that so far you have enough reason to acknowledge the possibility that there are many things we cannot attain without outside intervention (or rather God’s inside intervention). Sadly, some of us only come to this revelation when the commercial enterprise has gone bust, the wife and kids have left and the last bottle of Vodka has been emptied. But it doesn’t have to be that way – God invites us to reason with him on this subject.
You may, like me, be sitting with the question: “If there is a God and he is indeed so important to the existence of mankind, who is he and how can I know the truth about who he really is?” In order to progress beyond this point, I am going to have to assume that you have at least left yourself open to the fact that you don’t know everything there is to know about everything and that maybe – just maybe – there is a God out there somewhere (some people are absolutely closed to the fact that there could be anything – and I mean anything at all – beyond the natural universe that we engage with our five senses, which I find remarkable because of how little science is (yet) capable of unveiling about our world, let alone what lies beyond it). Let’s assume that you are at least open to the possibility that there is a God, but perhaps you are not all that certain about who He is and how He wants to relate to you. The best I can offer is to take you back to the owner’s manual.
Now, if you are a male, I know you don’t read manuals much. Unless something has broken, at which point we start cussing and looking for the $%*£%& manual. If you are a female, then you might ask a more sensible question: “How do I know who wrote the manual and whether it’s genuine?” Good question, and while we don’t have the space to cover this right now, it is dealt with in detail elsewhere on this site. But first, I need to convince the men amongst us that reading the manual before something breaks is actually a good idea. As I’m sure you know, there are many self-appointed gurus, life coaches, mullahs, pastors and priests out there who claim to have a hotline to God and have thus managed to monopolise the truth (and this often reflects well in the bank balance, as all monopolies tend to do – please forgive my cynicism). Now the good news is that you don’t need someone else to read the manual to you (or worse, someone who pretends to read the manual and then tells you what they think it should say).
As we continue here, you may be surprised to find out what this manual actually looks like. You probably have an idea forming in your mind already. Let me guess: A big black book with some gold emblazoned text on the cover? Yes and no. The manual originally came in a four dimensional living form, but because we don’t have any good 4D printers (yet?) to make copies of it to spread the message, we got given a 2D black and white version. Still, both versions carry the same message. Perhaps you’ve guessed by now that in the first instance I’m referring to a someone rather than a something. It was someone who demonstrated that he was both fully God and fully Man and also that he had power to resolve our human condition. He came to reveal the Truth to us in person, in fact he is the Truth, by definition, because he is wise, righteous, just and truly objective. You may be surprised that God has never been hiding from us and the fact that he came to us in human guise as Jesus Christ is evidence to this fact. How else could we have comprehended and discovered him? Science can barely get us off this planet, let alone through the n-dimensions of the universe to the high heavens where God abides (actually the universe abides in God, but let’s not get too technical for now). If you have only heard of Jesus Christ as a cuss-word on TV, this whole site exists to introduce you to the “true” him. God has chosen to fully reveals Himself to us through Christ, and because Christ is both fully Man and fully God, it gave mankind a unique opportunity to fathom God. As the Son of God, Jesus uniquely has the power and authority to take us on the return trip from earth to heaven, yet because of His humanity, He alone is able to act as a mediator between God and man, opening the communication lines between us and heaven.
People often put the brakes on at this point and say, “But how do you know that what you are saying about Jesus is true?” As mentioned, I cover the historical and scientific evidence here too, but for now, the simplest argument is that we have the same fundamental testimony from hundreds of millions of true believers through the ages (not to be mistaken with those who filled in “Christian” on the last census form under the “Religious affiliation” section). In a court of law it takes just twelve jurors to decide on the merits of a case that can either condemn or acquit a man. Today we can present hundreds of millions of witnesses that will testify to the life and power of Christ in them. These are ordinary people like you and me whose lives have been radically impacted and changed by the grace, love and power of Jesus Christ and who have lived (or died) to tell the story. The basis for their faith is the eternal and unchanging Word of God. In other words, people did not invent what it means to be a Christian – this is what God has revealed to us. Even though Jesus came to us in 4D some 2000 years ago, today we still have His words and actions recorded in the Bible (that’s the 2D manual) so that anyone can open it up and discover the truth about God. The Bible makes this connection clear by stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1), which means we are at no disadvantage today from those who met Christ “in person”. But more than that, you can still meet Christ in person today, as covered elsewhere on this site.
God is and has always been near to us and He has revealed Himself in full to us through Christ His Son.
4. God, by his own definition
There is so much controversy today surrounding who God is – people accuse and blame Him for all kinds of things, but are they just in doing so? Here is an excellent (free) audio series that addresses this far more eloquently and completely than I could, but I’ll make a start on it below.
It’s important to note again that by Biblical definition, Jesus is one with God the Father and He came to show us who the Father really is – specifically to put an end to the controversy about what God is “like”. We need to understand what God has revealed about His nature and character and the clearest way to see this is through Christ. As mentioned, Christ is the “Word of God” (John 1:1) so the way for us to discover Christ today is through the scriptures, accompanied by the revelation of Christ through the Spirit (more on that later). I’d like you to read the Bible for yourself, but since you are probably interested right now in getting a nutshell overview, here’s an attempt at doing the near-impossible – summarising an 800,000 word book into a few points:
- God is motivated by his love in his actions toward mankind – not because we are lovable or worthy of that love, but because He is love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy 7:7)
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
- God’s is perfectly good and He cannot do evil: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
- God desires to help and heal mankind, not destroy us: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23)
- God is righteous, just and true – He cannot deceive us, lie to us or treat us unjustly: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)
“In the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” (Titus 1:2)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
- Although God is merciful and gracious, His justice demands that He does not let the wicked go unpunished: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, [but] by no means clearing the guilty.” (Exodus 34:6)
- The standards of God’s justice means we are all guilty before him, without exception: “How then can I answer Him, and choose my words to reason with Him? For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him; I would beg mercy of my Judge…Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (Job 4:17 & Job 9:10)
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Rom 3:23)
- God’s mercy is revealed in that He makes a way of escape for us from His just judgement (because He knows we have no hope of justifying ourselves): “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)
- Jesus is the final authority in heaven and on earth and therefore any appeal by man to God must be made through Him: Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Mankind has chosen to reject God throughout history and chosen instead to serve diabolical, unjust or neuter gods. We do not need to go into a temple to worship – we naturally direct our time, effort and money towards those things which we love most and that is the essence of worship. Today people serve the gods of Money, Success and Self. The character of the god(s) that we serve will be reflected in our words, actions and heart’s desires. It is convenient to ignore the existence of the Almighty and to serve ambivalent gods because then we do not feel threatened by the thought that we will be held accountable for our actions one day. The God of the Bible is not only infinite love, but also infinite justice and He will fully exercise His rights over His creation, of which we are mere stewards. That is both a humbling and terrifying thought. It is just as overwhelming to realise that because of His love, God took on human form and died on a cross for us so that we don’t have to pay the price for our own sins – that is the only way that our guilt can be cleared on judgement day — if we accept this offer of mercy on God’s terms and not our own. It was Jesus who bore the punishment for our rebellion against God and therefore opened the way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to God – the ransom of one given for the redemption of the many. It is His gift of grace that we can have our sins completely forgiven and come back into relationship with God – and at the same time we ignore this at our own peril because we will die in a state of war with God.
I would like to challenge you to pick up any and every religious text in the world and try and find a God who has forged a route from heaven to man and back again. I have gone on this same search before and stopped at many ports of call. I initially found the Buddhist worldview compatible with my thinking and spent many years investigating meditation, martial arts and various types of philosophy to try and understand the spiritual aspects of life. However, despite all the “enlightenment” that I achieved, I never found peace in my soul nor did I ever have an assurance that my relationship with God was in order and that the guilt of my sins was cleared because this (and every other) religion is based on what we must do to please go – an impossible challenge which we all no doubt will fail. This will leave us frustrated even after we have scaled the mountain of religion and reached its peak only to realise heaven sits in a dimension above that we cannot reach. It was only after Jesus Christ come down from heaven and revealed the way back to heaven that our journey can be completed. We cannot take this for granted and it is for this reason that Christ holds a unique place above the pantheon of religions and gods that cannot save:
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
Nor shall there be after Me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no saviour.
I have declared and saved,
I have proclaimed,
And there was no foreign god among you;
Therefore you are My witnesses,”
Says the Lord, “that I am God.
Indeed before the day was, I am He;
And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand;
I work, and who will reverse it?” ( Isaiah 43:10-13)