catherine wrote: Jac3510 wrote:
The assurance you are looking for isn't going to be found in a feeling. It is going to be found in what you believe
. It won't be found in what you want
to believe. It won't be found in what you pretend like you believe. It won't be found in what you ought to believe. It will be found in the actual belief that you hold. By George you've got it!
The questions are simple:
1. Do you believe that God exists? Not fully, no. I doubt every day God is actually there, but I believe there is enough 'inferred' evidence e.g me, you, dna etc, to believe there is a 'Creator' or intelligence in the universe.
2. Do you believe that Jesus is His Son and His chosen means for your salvation? Here's where it gets tricky. There is no 'evidence' for this claim, other than what I read in a 2000 year old book, so I'm 'hoping' Jesus is who He said He was/is.
3. Do you believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead for your sins? Again, I hope He did. As for equating what He did to myself, I can't seem to make that connection. Because He isn't real enough to me, I can't really understand stuff on a personal level, only on 'principles' really.
4. Do you believe that He told the truth when He said that if you trusted Him, then He would save you? Again, I'm hoping He will save me (if He's real).
I'm not asking if you want to believe those things. I am asking if you are convinced that they are true. No, I'm not convinced really, which is the key you have 'unlocked', as to why I 'feel' no assurance. Of course I can't 'feel' or 'comprehend' assurance, if I don't even believe these things fully.
The last is the money question. Go read <a target="_blank" class="lbsBibleRef" href="http://bible.logos.com/passage/esv/John%203.16">John
3:16</a>, <a target="_blank" class="lbsBibleRef" href="http://bible.logos.com/passage/esv/John%206.47">John
6:47</a>, <a target="_blank" class="lbsBibleRef" href="http://bible.logos.com/passage/esv/John%205.24">John
5:24</a>, or any such verse, and ask yourself this simple question: Is Jesus telling the truth?
If you are convinced that Jesus has given you everlasting life--if you are convinced that He has saved you--you have assurance of your salvation by definition. For example, are you convinced that you are alive? Do you ever worry that you are really dead? Obviously, you are convinced--you believe--that you are a living person. You have assurance that you really exist. Assurance is part of what it means to believe something. If, then, a person doubts their salvation, they are effectively saying to Jesus that they don't believe He told the truth. You are right, but I wouldn't quite word the last bit like that. I'm saying 'Jesus, sorry I doubt you even exist. When I read about you, it has the ring of truth to it and so I'm asking you to give me faith that y ou are real and that you are the Saviour of the world...etc etc. If I thought the person of Jesus, as I read about Him was untrustworthy in some way, then I wouldn't bother with Jesus, and reading the Bible at all. But your are right in a way.
I understand that you want a relationship with God through Christ, but before that can happen, you must first come to accept certain facts. That is no different than even human relationships. If my wife didn't believe me--really believe me, not just wanting to believe me--when I told her I loved her, we never would have been able to establish anything like a relationship. As it stands now, God has told you a few things about Himself, such as that He exists, that He loves you, that He gave His One and Only Son for you, that this Son--Jesus Christ--died and was risen for your sins, and that if you trust in Him He will give you eternal life.
Your question is really simple: do you believe what God says or not? You make it sound so simple. If I could 'speak' to Him like I do my husband and you do your wife, then hey, it would be that simple. I believe in the moral principles I read about in the Bible, but many other religions share many of these principles, so that doesn't make Jesus real.
If yes, you will find the assurance is there as a matter of shear fact. If no, then you must ask yourself why. Are you not convinced that Jesus is who He says He is? Are you not convinced that God even exists? If the latter, you can search all you want, and God Himself says you won't find Him (<a target="_blank" class="lbsBibleRef" href="http://bible.logos.com/passage/esv/Heb%2011.6">Heb
11:6</a>). Yes, this is a good verse. I've asked God to forgive me for my lack of faith and to give me more faith. So it seems I'm stuck in limbo........
So I hate to be so boringly rational about this . . . I know you just want a supernatural revelation, but then again, so does everyone. So did the Pharisees. What you get is the same thing as everyone else gets: objective facts and God's Word. You get evidence. For my own part, and I'm sure for pretty much everyone else here as well, the evidence is so objectively overwhelming that the idea of non-belief is as foreign to us as the concept of our own non-existence. It's a shear matter of fact. You get that, and you get that assurance you are after. Well, you do seem to have hit the nail on the head. This realization still does not cause me to believe any more strongly than I do. So the conclusion must be that I am not one of the 'elect'. I cannot please God because of my unbelief. My rational mind is stronger than my titchy tiny bit of faith (or some other sinful part of me??) and so having spent the last twenty odd years with this problem, I do not see it getting any better. In fact, I think I'm flogging a dead horse here. Thank you for your thoughts on this. You have made some very good points and helped me get some things into perspective.
I'm glad to have helped identify the problem . . . would you mind if I pressed a little further and suggested a potential solution?
First, let me point out that the issue of your election is a theological one with which you needn't concern yourself. While there are plenty of Christians who may sadly agree that perhaps you are not, there are many others (me included) who think that election has absolutely nothing to do with your belief whatsoever (that is, I deny the doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace, which argue that God chose certain people to be saved and this draws them to salvation in this life). The upshot is that your belief or non-belief is ultimately on your shoulders, not God's.
Second, it really is that simple. I understand that if you could "just speak to Him" then things would be different. I doubt anybody would deny that. However, there are plenty of things that you believe that you have never had such direct contact with. Do you believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States? Do you believe that DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell? I bet you would quickly affirm both of these, and yet I doubt that you knew George Washington or that you've ever seen actual DNA sitting in the nucleus of a cell with your own eyeballs. Why, then, do you believe such things? The simple answer, I presume, is that there is so great evidence in favor of both statements and, just as importantly, there is not reason to believe that they aren't true after all.
If I am right about the two points above, then it seems to me that you don't need to keep beating your head against the wall of Christianity in frustration trying to generate belief. As K noted, New Testament faith is predicated on evidence--evidence that God has provided. Let me, then, very gently suggest that perhaps you should consider the evidence in the light of the need for persuasion of simple facts rather than seeking some great theological revelation. For example, you argue that there is no evidence for Jesus' existence beyond what the Bible says, which you dismiss--however politely you may do so--as "a 2000 year old book." In the first place, are you not aware of what secular historians of the day said about Him? And in the second, rather than consider the Bible "a 2000 year old book," why not recognize it for what it actually
is, namely, an extremely valuable two thousand year old library of literature that directly relates first hand accounts of the issues which we are studying! For instance, do you have a problem with appealing to the writings of Caesar or other such Roman writings to understand Roman history? Or would you not be overjoyed to discover a trove of books that were left by the Mayans immediately before their mysterious disappearance? If someone were to write off such a discovery as merely a collection of ancient books, would you not rightly point out that they had not grasped their significance?
Perhaps, then, you should look at the Bible in purely historical terms. I have done so, which is the primary reason that my faith is unshakable. I can honestly tell you that I can more easily disprove the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte using strict historical analysis than I can the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and if you take the time to read Historic Doubts Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte
, I think you would agree with me. It is an entertaining read, by the way, and at less than sixty pages, you can cover the material in only a couple of hours. Of course, it is absurd to argue that Napoleon did not exist, which is the author's point. Yet the people who argue against' Jesus' resurrection--much less His existence!--employ the very type of historical methods that would disprove Napoleon.
Or what do you make of the philosophical and scientific evidence for God's existence? I won't bore you with all the arguments, but allow me to simply list a few propositions:
1. The finite and temporal nature of the universe requires to have been created by a God.
2. The finely tuned nature of the universe requires it to have been created for man by an intelligent God.
3. The irreducible complexity of biology and biological life requires the existence of an infinitely intelligent Being.
4. The fact of the Moral Law requires a Moral Lawgiver.
5. The fact that your thoughts are not determined by the laws of nature requires the existence of some spiritual reality.
6. The fact that the concept of God defines Him as be the very essence of Love, there must exist within Him a plurality of persons with whom He can share that love (otherwise, He woudl be dependent on His creation, which is absurd), and yet Christianity is the only religion that recognizes a plurality of persons within the Godhead.
I could go on, but these are the types of facts I want you to consider, not as a means of being converted, but as a means of coming to the proper view of the nature of God. Whatever you end up believing, you must take all the evidence into account, as I am sure you would agree. You can, of course, simply bury your head in the sand and refuse to consider the evidence, but if you think about that very long (i.e., if you put yourself in a situation in which you were speaking with someone who disagreed with you but refused to even consider your evidence), you can see, I'm sure, how even God Himself would regard such a course of action.
I'm not asking you, Catherine, to bury your head in the sand and try to believe. I'm not asking you to beat your head against a wall. Both roads are too frustrating. What I am
asking you to do is step back and simply consider the nature of the world and the facts theists like myself highlight, and then, I am asking you to come to your own conclusion about what that means about the world. I can give you a list longer than I have time to write--and I can write a long time!--about why I believe. But at the end of the day, it is up to you to consider it. What do YOU make of the evidence, Catherine?
I don't believe for any supernatural reason, claims of Calvinists notwithstanding. I'm not a very spiritual person, actually. I simply can't get around the shear facts as they are presented to me. So yes, it really is that simple. Easy? No. Simple, absolutely. I would encourage you to simply pick a topic--an evidence, an argument, or whatever--and start studying it systematically, without any regard with where you will end up, and I am confident that Reality herself will point you to Her maker. Then you won't have to seek an experience. You'll look up and notice that, somewhere along the way, you came to realize that Reality's Maker was actually talking to you all along.
By the way, Catherine, let me also make one last suggestion. This is only a suggestion, and there is a lot of theology behind it, so please to take this as anymore than that, because I don't know how far it will go. I know this much to be true: that everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ for their salvation has eternal life. He said so Himself in many, many verses, John 6:47 being only one of them. Perhaps--and I don't know, because this is theologically contentious--merely with regard to your eternal soul, you may trust Christ for your salvation based merely and solely on what He has said. Consider the following prayer (and please note, I am NOT saying "pray this prayer and you'll be saved!" The Bible NOWHERE says that prayer saves a person):
Jesus, I'm coming to you confessing my doubts. You know them all. You know that I am not persuaded of even the most basic things that you said--or that you were reported to have said. But you know that I want to be persuaded. I do know that the Bible, as we have it today, has You promising that if I rely on you and you only, that You guarantee me eternal life and salvation. I'm taking You up on that promise now, doubts and all. I'm putting all my eggs in this basket, my doubts notwithstanding. If I'm wrong, then I don't know any other way to be saved anyway. And if I'm right, then I'll know for sure by experience when I see you in Glory, if not before then in knowledge if you are so gracious as to reveal Yourself to me. What I do know, is that if what the Bible says You said is true, then You promised eternal life to all who trust You, and Jesus, all I can do is trust You and thank you for the fact that I know that I have eternal life this very moment. I ask You for the grace of opening my mind as I study Your Word and Your world that I may come to know that the premise on which I am choosing to operate--that You actually promised me salvation if I merely trust You--is sure. In the meantime, I am relying wholly on Your grace, recognizing that salvation is a gift from You.
Now, I don't know if that will "do it." What I do know is that will give you a level of conditional
assurance, that is, you will be able to say:
"If the Bible is true, and if all Jesus asks of me is my trust, then I must be saved."
It is, of course, possible that the Bible isn't true, and therefore you wouldn't be saved. It is also true that perhaps Jesus demands full intellectual assent with that trust, in which case, you probably wouldn't be saved. But the conditional assurance would be there just as well. I could, after all, argue that I merely have conditional assurance because it is logically possible that I don't even exist and then this is all a dream! If that is the case, there is no me to be saved, regardless of how much I am convinced it is the case. The question, then, for you, would merely be to find out if the condition for your assurance is in fact true . . .