© Dennis L. Feucht 2001
Before addressing God as such, let's start with humanity. Human nature is both limited and fallible. Our knowledge is incomplete, our reasoning is limited, what we can observe is grounded in our senses and their artificial extensions, and our control is bounded. Yet these human capabilities allow us to scrutinize our world so that we eventually can understand and control it according to our interests. We often associate these human powers nowadays with science and technology. We are evidently equipped to master the physical world, given time and effort.
But we are not all-knowing or all-powerful. If we were not so limited, then perhaps God's existence would be more evident to us, but there's a more basic reason he is not accessible to us through scientific methods. We are also fallible. People complain about their spouses, politicians, and everyone in between. Human faults are many and varied, but is there a least common denominator?
The mother of all sins, though it may not be immediately obvious, traces back to the human desire to take God's place - to be our own god. This is the root of all human fallibility. It is more evident at the higher levels of the world power structure. Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were more evidently trying to shape reality in conformity with their own standards of truth and goodness. They were trying to fashion the world in their image. But on a lesser scale, it's also true of you and me. Our root sin is that we want to be take God's place, for ourselves at least.
The biblical claim is that, as our Creator, God has created us for his purposes, equipped us with the above-mentioned capabilities, and given us a world to explore, take care of, and develop. We function optimally when our motivations are those we were designed to have.
Now let's get back to the question. If God has designed us to function in our creaturely role under him as Creator, then why would he undermine his own intentions by encouraging us to be our own god instead? God does not; he simply is not accessible to us through scientific methods. He does not subject himself to our scrutiny so that, if we could analyze him sufficiently, we might be able to use such knowledge to subject him to our interests. God, as Creator and not creature, does not allow us that kind of access to him. To put it simply, we are not morally suitable for a peer-oriented relationship to God, at least not in our natural self-as-god state of human existence.
This issue is not new. The biblical accounts of the ancient Hebrews show that they repeatedly attempted to have God reveal to them his essential nature, so that they could use him for their purposes. He revealed to them some of his power, and they wanted access to it. But God's response was always enigmatic: "I will be who I will be." In other words, our Creator has limited his sentient creatures in how we can come to know him. And the approach is not through scientific methods but by the way the Creator himself has set out.
And what is that? First, we have to come to grips with our root problem, our inherent desire to be god. Our nature is to want reality to revolve around ourselves, and our conception of what is true and good. We are inclined to set our own standards of right and wrong. We want to remake ourselves in our own image of what we want to be. This self-oriented approach to life will lead one away from any true knowledge of God, thereby confirming what the atheist already knows: that God is unknowable on human terms, using humanly-acquired methods, such as those of science, or human reason, or esoteric, human-induced experience.
God's way of revealing Himself
God's way of revealing that he exists is by coming to know him by his own method - a particular kind of personal relationship whereby we let God be the Creator and we acknowledge our place in the universe as creatures under him. Such humility goes against our self-centered nature, and those who claim most loudly that God does not exist are invariably the farthest from exercising such humility (though they may be likeable enough as persons) and from any serious consideration of such a way to God.
One of the problems one confronts in admitting who we are to God according to his view of us - that is, in accepting our creatureliness under him, and in admitting our tendency to err relative to the purposes for which he designed us - is what we can do to set it right. God has accordingly not left us without remedy. He is not the frivolous designer who tinkers at a universal scale. He has a personal interest in and commitment to what and who he has created.
First, he has revealed through a chosen thread of humanity what we need to know, and has done this at various times and places of his choosing, and in a way that was often accompanied by visible evidence that the message was from him. The collection of messages comprises the Bible, which is largely the historic account of a unique thread of human history by which God has resolved the problem of human fallibility, at least for those who care to avail themselves of the solution. Simply put, he has taken the rap for our wrongs, thereby leaving us free from their legal guilt. We may still suffer the physical consequences of faulty performance (people who get AIDS always die from it), but in taking the legal remedy for our misgivings himself, God has remained consistent with his own character. Justice has not been compromised to show mercy. In his action for us, the impediment to knowing God due to our fallibility has been removed. This can be good news to anyone who is worn down by the corruption of society, human organization, or personal fallibility.
Under such circumstances, a person comes to know God by accepting God's view of who and what we are and who he is. But such knowledge is acquired only by taking the path that leads to abdication of one's own claims to godhood, however individually conceived. A god whom we can subject to our scrutiny can only be a god of our own imagination anyway - a god that fits into human conceptual limitations. The Creator does not allow himself to be put under our microscope.
Those who are frustrated by this limitation are usually loudest in arguing for God's nonexistence on the basis of the means they choose to use to uncover reality. The basic atheist attitude is: if I cannot control God then I won't admit him into my world; I'll ignore him. This is the essence of the self-as-god approach to life. And it is the approach that is the mother of all trouble for human beings.
To subject oneself to the governance of God is to function according to his design as a human being. When we live this way, we discover the fuller meaning of life itself. Societies comprised of people practicing this way of life and worldview have led the human race in cultural advancement. Nowadays, Western civilization has come to dominate the world. While presently in a state of decay (and hence self-denying), the major institutions of the globe have become patterned after the West, whose origins and the growth of its institutions were distinctly influenced by the Christian church - despite corruption of it by political power in earlier centuries (if not in our time as well). In essentially every category of human achievement, the Jewish strand of the biblical worldview has excelled far beyond their numbers. (Look, for instance, at how many Jews have won the Nobel Prize.) No wonder Hitler, Soviet Russia, and the medieval church viewed them as a threat!
God is not our puppet, a human plaything suitable for merely satisfying our curiosity or applying to our ends. Those who are seriously interested in the question of God's existence find that they cannot avoid coming to grips with themselves and their own worldview. Questioning God's existence brings us to face the question of our own existence and of how we regard it. While sincere misconceptions about God and his self-revelation as recorded in the Bible can keep an honest investigator at arm's length intellectually, the dominant problem after misconceptions have been swept clear is whether we are willing to place ourselves as individuals under the governance of God.
I didn't do it my way ...
The key consequence is abandonment of our autonomy to follow God's operating instructions for us. This "law" of God found in the Bible is, upon closer examination, much easier to obey than the nearly 1.5 million laws on the books in the U.S. alone. Biblical laws are few in number, and clear. They also "make sense" in that cultures distant from biblical revelation have more or less discovered their basic features for themselves. (It has not been uncommon for Christian missionaries to encounter remote peoples who, upon learning of biblical content, recognize it as the fulfillment of what they have been striving for as a culture. This is especially true of their recognition of the need for forgiveness of their wrong-doings and God's self-sacrifice on their behalf, that universal justice be maintained.)
Acceptance of the Given
Those of us with scientific or technical backgrounds have no trouble accepting the notion of physical law - that there is a certain "givenness" to the universe that we can investigate, learn, and function by, or ignore to our detriment. The same is true of the person-related laws God has revealed, not through the physical creation, but through historical revelation. Laws involving people have been communicated through a chosen people of God. While God has empowered us to master the physical universe, the direction of our will is not so empowered. As someone said, people don't know what they want in life, but will go through hell to get it. We are not empowered to be our own gods. For this aspect of life, we need propositional guidance, which God has given us in the Bible.
Sorting out this revelation is a task in itself. Because the setting of the writers was not ours, it is easy to form misconceptions about what they are saying. Consequently, finding a group of Bible scholars who are objectively trying to discern the meaning of its content (rather than twisting its meaning to approve human godhood) is a solid first move. A couple of websites are given here as a start:
The American Scientific Affiliation , a fellowship of about 2,000 Christians in science, who are interested in the relationship of science and wider issues.
Mark Ludwig , a CalTech-MIT educated physicist who is also a specialist in God and government, lays out what society functioning according to God's instructions would be like. Surprisingly, it would be a relatively free society compared to modern nation-states, but quite different in how it is organized. Some of its stranger laws subtly limit the formation of top-heavy power.