Let’s face it: the question of whether God is real resonates deeply inside all of us. Who doesn’t want to know where we come from and where we’re going after we die? Staring into the darkness in the middle of the night, we tend to wonder about the purpose of life.
Are we accidents of nature, destined to flourish for a brief moment and then wither and decay forever? Or are we the creation of a beneficent God who loves us and imbues meaning into our existence? Is there really hope after the grave, or is that merely wishful thinking from the only species that is able to recognize the horror of its inevitable demise?
From time to time, we feel an innate longing for God –– which might actually be evidence that he’s real. “One argument for God’s existence regards the aching absence of God in human experience,” said philosopher Douglas Groothuis. “There is, on the one hand, the pained longing for the transcendent and, on the other, the sense of the inadequacy of merely earthly goods to satisfy that longing…. We all experience a deep sense of yearning or longing for something that the present natural world cannot fulfill –– something transcendently glorious.”
Canadian writer Douglas Coupland, described as a “gifted exegete of North American mass culture,” authored the book Life After God nearly three decades ago, and its themes remain hauntingly relevant even today.
The book tracks a young man through a troubled era. He’s remorseful over his mistakes. His marriage has stagnated. He’s ensnared in a meaningless job. Instead of deep friendships, he endures what he calls “halfway relationships.” He’s worried that he doesn’t feel life the way he used to. But after 358 pages of aimlessness and frustration, this was his conclusion:
“Now – here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you read these words. My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to bring me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
Maybe you’re a little like Coupland’s character. Perhaps you have a secret, too. It could be that your circumstances are causing you to conclude that maybe – just maybe – you need God to breathe new hope and life into your world. Or maybe you need him to knock the crust off a heart that’s corroded with self-interest and cynicism. Or maybe you need him because – well, to be honest, you’re not sure why. You just sense that there’s got to be more to your existence than a job, three meals a day, and the gnawing feeling that something’s missing.
Or possibly you know a lot about the idea of God, but you’re realizing that you don’t really know God personally. You went to church as a kid or even went through some religious classes, but they seem to have numbed you toward God more than sensitized you to him. If someone asked, you’d say you were a spiritual person, although the truth is that a soul-satisfying faith has always eluded you.
Are you open to the idea of evaluating the evidence and coming to an informed conclusion about whether God is real? Imagine yourself as an umpire behind home plate in a baseball game, calling strikes and balls as you see them, without fear or favor. In other words, set aside bias and prejudice as best you can.
Will you find an ironclad case? Few things in life can be established without any doubt whatsoever –– for instance, we can say with absolute certainty that 2 + 2 = 4. Mostly, though, we make important decisions in our life based on the preponderance of evidence. Where do the facts point most convincingly? What’s consistent with the evidence? What’s more likely than not to be true? Does this case make sense?
Look at it this way. Right now I’m typing on a computer in my home office outside of Houston, Texas. Occasionally, I pause to sip from a bottle of water. But how do I know for sure that the water hasn’t been poisoned?
Well, the water comes from a reputable supplier. The bottle was sealed when I got it. The water looks clear. There’s no discoloration. It doesn’t have an unusual odor. I haven’t heard of anyone else getting sick from drinking water recently. My wife gave me the bottle, and she has no reason to hurt me.
And yet it could be poisoned. I don’t have absolute proof that it’s safe. But I do have sufficient evidence to warrant taking a step of faith by tasting it and finding that it’s truly good.
Belief in God is similar. We evaluate the evidence and arguments, we test them with objections, we seek clarity, we pursue further answers. And if we end up with sufficient confidence, we take the advice of Psalm 34:8 –– “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”
In fact, Jesus claimed to offer what he called “living water,” saying: “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
My new book, Is God Real?, offers to take you on a stimulating journey of discovery. Come with me as we travel around America –– from Boston to Seattle, from Denver to Los Angeles, from Texas to Indiana –– to meet some of the scholars I have interviewed about whether God is real. We’ll look at science, philosophy, history, morality, and human nature.
And since 52 percent of Americans say they have experienced religious doubt in the past few years, we’ll examine two of the biggest obstacles to belief in God: if he’s real, why does he allow suffering in the world? And if he’s real, why does he seem so hidden from us?
Remember, much hangs in the balance. Beliefs have real-world consequences. Let these experts make their best case. Evaluate their insights and consider whether there’s sufficient evidence to drink deeply from the living water that Jesus offers.
Then you decide: is God real?
Taken from Is God Real? by Lee Strobel. Copyright © October 2023 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan, www.zondervan.com.