The Modern Day god

How do you see God?

Birmingham, Alabama.  It’s in the middle of the Bible belt, but on a trip there, I heard about this massive iron statue that is an iconic symbol of the city.  It’s a statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of volcanoes and/or metal working.

As I saw the massive statue I contemplated, what would drive an artist to construct such a massive iron work? Was it a compulsion, eccentricity, a grand idea that got out of hand, or was it far more, perhaps worship of an image, an idea, or a celebration of good times?

However I envisioned it I kept coming back to why a statue of a Roman god of this magnitude would be so significant to the people of Alabama in the center of the Bible belt even if there was a large population of steel and iron workers in the era when it was built?

Though curious, the thought really isn’t so strange.  I remembered a couple of movie/television scenes that represent what I perceived society believes worship is all about. The craziest scene is the one from the original “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”.

It seemed to me that the producers were making fun of churches from that era in 1970, but I found it interesting that the view of worship is something that’s done in a church with singing, people gathered, showing their true selves to their god and chanting.  The fact that this was done in a cave, in a dark underground place out of the public adds a sense of mysticism and intrigue to the whole thing and a sense of mockery.

The other movie scene that comes to mind is Joe vs. The Volcano when Joe and  Patricia are meeting with the chief to discuss making the ultimate sacrifice to the “Big Woo”.  All the people are gathered together in a celebration that the volcano god will be appeased and not destroy the people of the island.

These scenes while entertaining shed light on a secular view of religion and worship of a god.  In a cinematic way they try to explain, or perhaps in a way lead us to interpret, man’s perception of a relationship with God.  In “Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, the god being worshiped was a nuclear warhead, but the scene was modeled after churches of that period.  The scenes shows crazy religious people bent on destroying the world. They wear masks to cover up their appearances and their beliefs bring doom to the planet.  In Joe vs The Volcano, the Big Woo is bringing destruction on mankind and needs to be appeased with sacrifice.

A few days ago I read an article, ‘Humans will worship AI MESSIAH’ God Robot religion expected to boom posted in the Daily Star by Rachel O’Donoghue about a new religion founded by Anthony Levandowski.  Mr. Levandowski was quoted as saying:

“What is going to be created will effectively be a god.

“It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lighting or causes hurricanes.

“But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it.”

For me, this is not at all how I understand our relationship with God and I find it saddening that so many misunderstand God’s true nature.

God is not something man-made.  He’s not a statue, a bomb or a volcano.  He’s certainly not a figment of imagination and he’s not just an intelligence, though superior to us that views things only in black and white.  Can any of these man made gods create, love, show undeserved grace, instill hope, or give meaning and purpose to our lives?

God is real.  There is irrefutable evidence that he exists, yes, even in scientific evidence.  Skeptics dismiss it and try to explain away everything with reason and enlightenment, but it is God who is the source of all reason and enlightenment.  To deny him is to deny our very existence, reject his order of things and loose hope and purpose for our existence.

Some try to explain away love as a set of emotional responses to stimuli as if we are just machines.  The fact that we are not just machines, but can experience love, have creativity, are self aware, and function at a level where we are able to make choices, and exist in a form that is clearly engineered is evidence that God exists.

How then do we come to an understanding of who he is when we are separated from him?  But are we really separated from him, or are we just pretending to be?  Like any relationship, if we choose to push another person away in our hearts, even if we’re in the same room with them we loose that intimacy and closeness.  Two people can live side by side and have no real relationship.  Just ask a few unhappily married couples.  We must choose to love and be together.  But it takes all the parties involved in making that decision in every interaction.

Bentley

My daughter recently moved back home after graduating from NC State.  She wanted a dog and embarked on a search until she found an Australian Sheppard that she named Bentley.

I personally have never had an Australian Sheppard for a pet, but I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life.  Every one has a distinct personality and way of interacting, but I had no idea of how to interact with this dog and how it would interact with me.  When she brought it home for the first time, it was a cute little puppy and as it’s grown it’s personality has begun to emerge.

It would have been an even stranger experience for me had she instead brought home a giraffe or an eagle.  I’ve never personally interacted with either of those creatures so I have no idea what to expect in taking care of either.

In every relationship there is a moment of encounter, and then a progressively building interaction as we begin to understand and learn from one another.  Our relationship with God is much the same way.  We are like God, having been created in his image, but we are also very different even though some people may like to think they are God.  Our differences force us to learn about one another so we can interact.

Our relationship with God is simple, but it’s also very complex.  He is our creator, so he knows us intimately before we even begin to understand who he is.  He set in place a specific order and gave us an ability to purposely defy that order, in effect giving us the ability to love.  After all, love ultimately boils down to a choice to continually be with and selflessly give to another.  When we choose our own direction and order, we are in walking away from the relationship, choosing to love something or someone else.

God’s response to us has always been one of love, patience and forgiveness.  But how long should he wait for us to decide we want a relationship with him?  He’s always been there, waiting for us to recognize him and waiting for us to make a choice to be with him.  Though he is patient and loves us, because of that love he also respects our wishes.  If we choose to live without him then he will withdraw himself from us.

Herein lies a problem.  Our very existence depends on God.  His words and breath didn’t just set things into motion.  It continues to give life and sustain it.  He doesn’t walk away from the universe while it spins and churns.  He continues to keep things moving and is actively engaging in discourse with those who choose him.  To reject God is to reject life and to reject it eternally and in finality.

This is not a choice that can or should be taken lightly because of it’s finality and mortality.  I believe that we all know the truth in our heart, but many of us reject it, ignore it, or want to snuff it out so that we can be our own God.  Sadly, if that is your choice God will honor it, but my hope is that you choose God.

I say this to young people often.  We all have a purpose in our lives and if we live that purpose, our lives have meaning and value.  With God’s grace we are given hope.  When we choose another path, we become frustrated, angry, resentful and loose hope.  So choose God.

Let’s imagine for a moment that there is a guy sitting in a crane moving a shipping container that has something in it that you are going to buy next month.  When you open the package containing that item you may not know all of the steps that went into creating it or bringing it to you, yet you have that item in hand.  Logically, you know that the item you bought was made over seas so you know someone had to be involved in getting it to you.  If you so desired, you could ask a few people and follow the route of the item back to this guy and thank him in person by having dinner with him and his family.

You could also begin a correspondence.  Maybe you send an email thanking him and he is so overwhelmed that you would recognize him that he calls someone up in your neighborhood and has a limo driver come to your house to take you and your family out to dinner.

Just like in every other relationship we have, we don’t always know how the other person will respond to us.  Without someone telling you that the crane operator sent you the limo and a great meal, maybe you’d just say that you won a prize and that would be the end of the interaction and thus the relationship.

My point here is that first we have to seek God out and begin to understand him and the way he communicates with us.  One of the kids in my youth group once told me that he was waiting for God to speak to him audibly.  I told him to ask God to reveal himself and then to look for him to respond in different ways.  God knows our heart and he can communicate on a level that goes far beyond what we sometimes expect.  Why do we always expect him to come down to our level?

If God exists and he wants a relationship, then why doesn’t he reveal himself to me?  He is God. He can do anything, right?  Why doesn’t he show his face to me?

Many would argue that we should start with the Bible, but that presupposes that the Bible is the authority on God.  I’m not going to refute that it is the authority on God, but in some sense if you start with the question, “Does God exist?” and then read the Bible, you are left questioning it’s historical reliability.

I do believe that one can come to an understanding of God through life experience, and even simple reasoning. Stare into a telescope or microscope and found there will be order and design.  We consider ourselves an advanced society, but a vast number of so called “inventions” are simply recreations, derivations, or reuses of what we observe in nature already.  They are not there on the basis of an evolutionary system, but must have been created in the first place.  The intelligence was already there, we just learned it.

Everything had to come from something and anything that is created must have a creator.  Read some of William Lane Craig’s works and/or watch a debate on the subject of God and listen to the reasons, philosophical arguments, and depth of study that was put into his research.  But before you do, don’t go in looking for proof of your position or opposition.  Instead ask for proof of his position and let the arguments speak on their own merit.  What I found was well thought out, researched and a reliable proof.

Often times when I talk with others about God’s existence there’s an obvious attempt to avoid the topic.  Sometimes it’s easier to be ignorant than to face the consequences of a certain fact, but it may also be that we don’t want to face the onslaught of other questions that come as a result of answering “the big one”.  I think some of us would prefer jumping into a volcano and answering “The Big Woo” than to face a real God and be subject to his moral standard.

There have been many years of my life when I had to take a hard look in the mirror and stare down my motives and actions.  There was a time when I didn’t want to face God because I knew I’d have a lot to answer for and I didn’t want to give up the benefits of ignorance.  With the existence of a supreme being come moral obligations that many of us would rather ignore.

How can you define morality without God first establishing a set of boundaries for right and wrong?  I asked that to a family member and it invoked laughter as though I’d missed some important fact or concept that was widely known by everyone.  Apparently this was the response of someone that rejects not just the question, but the premise of God’s existence.  Morals are not standards set by people.  This type of position leads us back to a basis on value judgments which can be different from person to person, i.e. relativistic thinking.  Instead, what I’m talking about is a central truth that is core to the way things are.  Relativistic thinking is nothing more than circular reasoning.  You can make the circle sufficiently large that most people won’t traverse it far enough to find that it has no end.

Many scientist believe in a “big bang” event that began everything, but if that was the beginning what caused the beginning? Even in science, as reflected in our human nature, we are compelled to find a beginning, a cause and effect.  Science itself is an exploration of cause and effect and seeking to understand the relationships between things. That explanation is expressed in mathematics, language, data and yes, even art.

One of the arguments made in favor of their being a God, a creator, is that our universe and particularly our planet is positioned in a unique way that enables us to observe and collect data in support of a creator, whereas most other places in our galaxy and universe do not have the benefit of that vantage point.

After all, I wouldn’t have know about the “Big Woo” if I’d not seen it on the big screen, and I certainly wouldn’t have known about “Vulcan” if I’d not been in Birmingham on business.  Though my life events led me to those places, neither of those things could or would have the power to influence my position in the world to see them.  Whereas, a creator of the universe would.

So, if God exists, then why doesn’t he speak to us? I’ll answer that with two questions, 1) Do you want him to?, 2) Are you listening to him?  It occurred to me that a God who could create trillions of stars in the heavens, knows the names and entire life history of every one on Earth for all of time, past, present, and future, would speak in ways so advanced that I would scarcely recognize, but doesn’t he?  Did he provide a Bible?  Didn’t he establish Israel and predict future events with astounding reliability in it?

One can’t simply dismiss fact after fact after fact. If there were just one, granted, but there are hundreds, perhaps thousands.  Probabilities are not on the side of the skeptic.

The fact that we have the ability to sense, observe and reason is an argument for a divine creator. Our ability, unique from the animals and the rest of creation as we know it, allows us to be self aware, but our nature compels us to seek answers and to explore. Most cultures believe in a spiritual domain, religion and in the existence of a creator. Atheism is in the minority.

We often discuss probabilities that a certain event would occur by chance, but at the same time we ignore the fact that probabilities are models of reality.  They are not reality.  We cannot equate sample data with population data.  They are not the same thing. One is a model of the other, an approximation, based on observations and modeled imperfectly.

Our minds function in much the same way. We develop a perception based on the data we obtain through our senses and then form a basis for what we cannot see beyond the data.  We anticipate things based on that model of the data.  The further away we try to extrapolate, predict or envision, the further away we get from what is real. However, it is that ability to project outcomes and imagine things that has allowed us advance science.

In Science is found in the basis of observation, recognition of patterns, developing models of our understanding of the relationships, and finally extending or predicting some set of results based on these things. Why then, can it not be used to as a basis to explain the existence of a creator, unless it also incorporates the motive of the scientist? Without motive there is no inquisition, no exploration, and no advancement of knowledge in the direction of the motivation.

In  recent discussion with a distinguished scientist, I was told that God is a way to explain everything away conveniently, as if to suggest that we can never obtain an answer and to explain anything with the concept of God as a creator was a cop out, a poor (lack of intelligence) man’s way to explain what he does not understand.

It is reasonable to see where he came to that understanding when examining history. How many times did our parents tell us to do something and when asked “why?” we were told, “because I told you so.”  I remember that usually that was the answer given when a parent was annoyed with answering questions or felt a need to avoid the answer because it was a topic far to great for simple minds to comprehend. That does not, however, mean that we are not to know the answer, but that we are not to know the answer at this time, or simply that we should stop asking the questions and look around for the answer because it was staring us in the face.

So I ask again, “Why is it such as stretch to believe that there is an intelligent designer who created or began all that we observe?” The answers lie all around us and even in us. The answers are in and lie in the motivation of our hearts.  We must seek God if we are to find him.

To acknowledge that there is a creator that authored the world is to admit that we are not superior, but are created by someone who is superior, someone who has rules imposed on us. As a people who imagine beyond our boundaries, we do not ourselves want to be constrained by those boundaries, yet in reality no matter how much we would like to avoid them we are.  The universe is designed with laws that govern it’s operation and though we can play lawyer with one law against another, ultimately, we are constrained and bound by the created world we live in.

I’ve asked a lot of questions, revealed some of my reasoning and feelings as to why I believe in God and who I believe him to be.  I believe that God is love, that he created the world we live in and that his intelligence and power far exceed anything we can reasonably comprehend.  I believe that he gave us an ability to choose right from wrong and that he himself is the essence of all that is good.  It is our choices, bad choices (i.e. sin) that separate us from him.  I believe that he designed us each with a purpose and places great value on us, so much so that he continues to wait for us to restore our relationship with him.  He wants us to seek him first, repent, and live according to our purpose.  Yet, he provides our needs even in spite of our own unbelief, insults, and choices for a time.  Eventually he will relent and gives us control of our own destiny even without him if we so choose and this will result in our demise.

My God isn’t an artificial intelligence, he is THE intelligence and he acts with or without us as he chooses.  He alone is sovereign.  Oh, and by the way, he created time, so to say that he is a “Modern Day” god would be far to limiting.  He is the God for all generations, all people, and all times.

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