Saturday, November 10, 2012

Should We Expect God to Communicate with Us?

[S]ince we know beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists and that he has the characteristics we’ve listed above—characteristics that include design, purpose, justice, and love—then we should expect him to reveal more of himself and his purpose for our lives. This would require that he communicate with us.
I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, p.200, Norman Geisler and Frank Turek

I have been running across a number of Christians in the blogosphere recently who justify their belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible, in part at least, on the grounds that it is reasonable to think that God would want to explain what's going on to us directly.  I just can't see why this would be so.  Certainly God might choose to communicate with us (and I would be interested to know what he had to say if he did), but why in the world should I think it more likely than not that he would want to?

If an infinite, omnipotent, and omniscient God exists, he is so far above us that I don't see how we could ever have any reasonable expectation that he would want to explain himself to us.  We cannot have any expectation that we are even capable of understanding his purposes.  There is no reason to think that we are anything more to him than an ant farm or a tank of tropical fish, i.e., something that he finds interesting to observe from time to time, but nothing with which he desires to communicate.

It seems to me to be every bit as reasonable to think that God expects us to figure out things for ourselves. He gave us the world to live in and the capacity to reason and he is watching to see what we come up with. It might be that communicating with us directly would defeat his purposes completely.  I can't know this to be the case, but it is no less reasonable than thinking that communicating with us would achieve his purposes.

As far as I can tell, this idea that we should expect God to reveal himself to us is founded on nothing more than our capacity to reason, but that is like a dog thinking that he is the center of his owner's universe rather than her cat because his ability to respond to a few simple commands means that he is on her wavelength in some fundamental way that her cat is not.   It could just as well be that she views them equally as mere pets, or even that she responds to her cat in some important ways that are beyond the dog's ability to comprehend.

The significance of this for the belief in divine revelation is that unless we have good reason to think that God would want to communicate with us directly, it is really hard to see any justification for wasting much time to trying to figure out whether he did.


  1. Vinny, So what makes you think the Bible is not this communication you are talking about?

  2. Howard,

    Two reasons for my doubts:

    (1) I don't know of any a priori reason to think that there would have ever been such a communication; and

    (2) I don't know of any objective criteria by which to distinguish a real communication from God from a claimed communication from God.

  3. Vinny,

    It seems by your response that you are looking for some sort of concrete evidence as to why God would communicate with us, and even maybe what he would communicate to us. However, to date, we do not possess such concrete evidence. What we do have is the Bible that claims to be a communication from God and it does contain a reason why he would communicate. Wouldn’t this, even though it is only a claim, be worthy of investigation? However, this is where a big problem arises. If we are investigating the Bible as a possible communication from God, we need to properly understand what the message is suppose to be saying and why it is being said. And in my experience, most critics of the Bible, are basing their rejection of it merely on the claims and interpretations of traditional Christianity, which I have come to realize has been in an apostate state since the second century C.E. Even when they look into the writings themselves, they either put a Christian or humanistic slant on their interpretations. So if anyone wants to get a clearer picture of what the message of the Bible is, they need to get beyond these biases. And again, you will not find concrete evidence in all this, but you will find that the idea that the Bible is a communication from God is convincing. I don’t know if that is going to be enough for you, but it is all we have at present.

  4. Wouldn’t this, even though it is only a claim, be worthy of investigation?

    If a mere claim were worthy of investigation, then I would need to look at the Book of Mormon and the Koran, too. I would also have to investigate the claims of Scientologists and psychics. Moreover, if I were to investigate all those claims and find them wanting, I have no doubt that the Mormons, Muslims, Scientologists and psychics would tell me that it was my biases that were the problem.

    1. Vinny,

      If you don’t have the motivation to actually seek out God, and you are satisfied with merely philosophizing about him, that’s certainly your right, I don’t mean to push the issue. However, your reasons for not investigating the Bible are simplistic, and more importantly not logical. I know that you could have provided other examples, but the ones you did provide make very little sense. As you probably know, the book of Mormon, and the Koran, are based on the Judeo-Christian Bible. So the same roots would be investigated. And a proper understanding of the Bible, would help us determined if these other religious books conformed to their roots. As far as the other two you mentioned, you are not taking other factors into consideration. Not only have millions of average people taken the Bible as a communication from God, many highly educated experts in the field have done so as well. Is that the same situation for Scientologists or psychics? Let me put it another way, there is a small group of people who think the world is going to end next week, common sense tells us that there is no good reason to take the claims of this small group into consideration. However, if it was a very large group that included many scientists who were saying the world was going to end next week, I think that would demand further consideration, wouldn’t you? And the bottom line is, if you are really interested in finding the truth about God, yes, you need to consider and investigate all these other claims, I have.

  5. To quote W.C. Fields, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No sense being a damn fool about it."

    I have sought for God many times during my life and I have investigated many claims.

  6. Crucial new understandings of the “Jesus Puzzle” made possible by present historical and scientific methods and knowledge.
    Schubert Ogden: “We now not only know that none of the writings of the OT is prophetic witness to Christ, we also know that none of the writings of the NT is apostolic witness to Jesus.” This is a judgment based on historical evidence determined by an insider of the Guild of NT Studies. Eric Zuesse : “The religion of the NT actually has nothing to do with the person of the historical Jesus.” This is a scientific judgment based on scientific evidence determined by an outsider. Hence we now have convincing evidence, both from the methodologies of history and science, that the writings of the NT, Paul’s letters, the Gospels, as well as the later writings of the NT, are not reliable sources for knowledge of Jesus. Our most certain historical evidence can only come from within the Guild of NT Studies, even as our best scientific evidence would reasonably come from outside. No evidence, historical or scientific, is presented to question the basic tenet of the Guild that we have NT sources containing apostolic witness to Jesus. Only from within the Guild of NT Studies might a scholar have acquired sufficient competence in the Guild’s areas of special knowledge, which necessarily applies, if one is to become enabled to fully access the historical evidence necessary to identify this NT source of apostolic witness to Jesus. As Eric Zuesse’s probe demonstrates, full historical details of origins of Jesus traditions during the years 30-65, can only be accessed by historical scholars from within the Guild. E.g., Eric’s probe fails to recognize that there were two distinctly different movements (denominations) during this earliest period of Jesus traditions, each with its own understanding of the significance of Jesus, marked by “an extraordinarily intimate, more precisely adversarial, relationship” (H. D. Betz). Both were pre Christian, pre Gospel, partly pre Pauline. The first movement was the Jerusalem Jesus Movement (misleading and anachronistic by tradition named Jewish Christianity) which began with the key disciples returning to Jerusalem, having fled to their native Galilee, purposing to again take up the teachings of Jesus. It was from this Jesus movement, later led by James Jesus’ brother, that we have our sole source of apostolic witness to Jesus, identified by Betz to be the Sermon on the Mount. Paul was never a member of the Jesus movement actually he was their arch enemy as propagator in the Gentile world of Christ myth movement. The writings of the NT were written in the Gentile world under the primary influence of Pauline kerygma, to become Chrisitinity.
    The second movement soon followed the Jesus movement, a pre Pauline Hellenist movement which introduced the notion that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah whose significance was the salvific effects of his death and resurrection, which abrogated the Torah. This in effect was treason for Temple authorities. Paul is introduced as a participant in an apparent put down by Temple authorities of some kind of anti Torah demonstration, holding the garment of those casting the stones in the Acts story of the stoning of Stephen, the leader of this Hellenist group. Next we find Paul as persecutor of this group, having his “vision” on the road to Damascus to where the Hellenist group fled. This resulted in Paul’s conversion to this group, from which he received his Christ myth gospel. In taking his gospel to the Gentile world, first to Antioch meeting with ready success, this had the effect of severing knowledge of Jesus from his teaching and his Jewish roots. As winners in the struggle for dominance, becoming Gentile Christianity, they soon could label the Jesus Movement heresy to effectively remove it from the pages of history. The Gospels were written by followers of Paul’s Christ Myth gospel, not followers of the Jesus Movement. All of these developments are sufficiently documented in the NT.

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