An Adaptation of “Why I Believe in God” by Cornelius Van Til PH.D.
Hey! We have been around each other a lot lately and I have loved getting to know you. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to have this conversation with you. I hope you will allow me some time to share some things with you today.
I am taking a lot for granted. I am assuming that you want to discuss these things. We both should agree that they are important. I’m assuming with your intelligence you have from time to time asked yourself some questions about the foundation and direction of your life. Maybe you have gone as far to question about death and whether there is an afterlife. Deep down you may ask, how do I know that there is no God?
I hope I am not being too intrusive and you can stop me at any point, but I really desire to discuss with you our differences. I want to hear what you believe and deeply desire to share with you why I am confident of my belief in God.
To start with, I want us to talk about our past. We both have studied the psychological debate of nature and nurture. We both live in a world that seeks to make all truth relative and discount faith as completely separate from any reason. My desire to share this with you is social taboo because I am supposed to keep all of this quiet.
One of your first arguments against my faith will be that I was brought up to believe these things, while you were not.
My answer is that I don’t deny this at all, I was taught to follow God early in my life. But my childhood was not a cocoon. I have heard all the reasons why not to believe and I have observed a lot of people who live differently than me. In spite of issues within and without myself, I am more convinced of the truth of God’s existence than ever before and I am more in love with the Christian gospel than ever before.
You see, without God, nothing in this world makes any sense. Because of God, the whole of history and civilization makes complete and perfect sense. I am so convinced of this that I dare propose that if God is not in back of everything, you cannot find meaning in anything. I can’t argue for God without taking my belief in Him for granted.
Here’s the kicker- I contend that you can’t argue against Him unless you take him for granted also. You see, when I listen to you argue about God I realize that He has given you the very air to breathe the very words, that comes from the very thoughts that come form the very intelligence that He has given you.
After I listen to your arguments, they make no assault on my position of faith, because I believe you argue from the darkness while I stand in the light. You believe the opposite is true.
So, in love, I want to continue my story and then we can proceed.
I come from a family of faith. It doesn’t discount truth to be in it at a young age. Our family wasn’t a bunch of holy rollers, but it was a family impacted by the Christian worldview.
I see you are ready to jump out of your skin to counter me- go ahead.
Why the Christian God? Well I believe in Him and you do not. Let me argue from what I know than from what you can’t know.
Why do you not see Him? Well surely you don’t expect me to bring Him in the room so you can see Him? If I were able to do that, He wouldn’t be the God of Christianity.
What I want to offer to you are reasons to believe. People want proof, but all that exists is evidence. That is true for any worldview. I serve a reasonable God- He invented reason, and organization, and orderliness.
Why are you so agitated? Calm down, I am being a friend. We can stop at any point a get a cup of coffee and talk football.
You ask me why you are agitated? Well, you know what this conversation means. If you change your belief about God, you will have to see yourself in a whole different way- and that may bother you.
Hang with me a little longer- I want to continue my story.
When I was little, our family believed. We said prayers at meals and went to worship services on a regular basis. If I told my mom I was afraid of monsters she would give the answer that you would expect – “ There are no monsters and I shouldn’t be afraid anyway” “Why mom?” “ Your body and soul belongs to your Savior who died for you on the cross and rose again that no one should be afraid.”
That’s the way we talked from time to time at our house. It was the atmosphere of our home. We still watched TV and talked about everyday stuff and even fought! But there were Bibles and Christian music and occasional family devotions.
As I went to Sunday school and Bible camps, I began to grow accustomed to the grand old stories of Abraham and Moses and Paul. All of these things began to condition me. I cannot help but believing. The love of Christ rained on me in soft showers of gentle moments that seemed very insignificant at the time.
Let’s stop there and parallel what you have told me about your life. Your family did not believe in God. Your parents worked hard to keep your upbringing free from the trappings of religion. They spoke to you of hard work and freethinking. They worked hard to cultivate an open mind. Where I was conditioned to believe in God you were left free. But were you free? I dare say that you were conditioned to not believe. You think that religion was poured down my throat and I counter that anti-religion was poured down yours. And that becomes the first truly awkward moment of our conversation. Can you agree with me at this point?
My story goes on. My parents sent me to a Christian school and my conditioning continued. I was daily instructed by a formula – it said that I had been conceived in sin, like all men. But I was now a child of the covenant of grace- redeemed by Christ- and part of my parent’s responsibility was to bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Part of that training was to constantly teach and remind me of what God’s Word taught about the world.
This environment prepared me for the day of my conversion- where I personally committed my trust in Christ’s death as the only means of salvation. According to God’s word, at that moment I was justified and adopted into God’s family. I now began a road of being set apart for God’s work and His glory. I wish I had been completely faithful to this and understood it with the depth I know now. I have done a lot of harm in the name of Christ. I still have sin in me.
You tell me that your schooling was much different. You went to a “neutral” school. Your school outlawed religious expression and remained secular. God was never mentioned in your study of nature or history. Even allusions to the Bible in literature were kind of skipped over as teachers became very fearful of what might happen if they were accused of “bias”.
I hope you are smart enough now to realize that the classroom was not neutral. To secularize the classroom becomes a worldview itself. An unbiased, neutral classroom is just a thin disguise of a negative attitude toward God. Can you agree that the person not for God is actually against him?
I see that you don’t agree with me. Let me put it this way. God is plainly seen everywhere. This is His world, He made it. He made the majestic mountains and encoded our DNA. We are living by His decree and are we are living on His property. You don’t see them, but His ownership signs are everywhere. His stamp is on every song, picture, and poem - He is the expression of life and love and beauty.
If you stay “neutral” to Him- is it not the supreme insult? Atheists will say, ‘God has not given me enough evidence, so how can He blame me?” But our counter is that the evidence is as plain as the engineering of their pinky. If they cannot see, it is because they are blinded by sin. See, the Bible says that we are dead in trespasses and sin. That deadness is also blindness. I am telling you that unless God opens your eyes, you will see me only as a “goody- goody” and will resent my proposition of truth as arrogance and intolerance.
My Christian schooling continued. Can you see the difference in my conditioning? All my teachers pledged to teach their subjects from the Christian worldview. It wasn’t just Bible class. Even Algebra was presented under the authority of God’s Word! We were taught that to leave God out of the picture would prevent us from understanding the framework of truth.
We studied non-Christian teachings and philosophy. I have a keen understanding of Darwinism and existentialism. We read Plato, Kant, Emerson, Freud, and Marx. I was taught the best logical reasons to not believe in God. I heard all these things, but was also given sound refutations of these arguments and philosophies.
My Bible classes became exhilarating. I was exposed to systematic theology and read from great minds like C.S. Lewis. Martin Luther, and Blaise Pascal. I had great teachers explain Biblical history and geography. I learned how to defend the reliability of the Bible and argue my faith through apologetics. I was taught about evangelism and missions. I also heard countless testimonies about the life changing effect of the gospel. I became equipped in sound doctrine and Church history.
I am finished with my background. You know the God to which I am testifying for. This God was behind my parents, my teachers, my youth leaders, and many of my friends. It was He who conditioned all that conditioned me. He is the God of Christianity. He is the All-Conditioner.
Believe it or not- He also conditioned everything that conditioned you.
I love that laugh of yours. I hear it as one of incredulity.
What do I mean by this you say? He is real and outside of us. He is objective truth. He is the God who controls all things. In Him all things exist and are held together. The counsel of His will controls all reason. We do not condition him - he conditions us. My belief in Him does not make Him anymore real and your disbelief in Him does not make Him less real.
Think about this. I have heard of all of the best arguments against His existence. All of these theories of life and philosophy have been propounded for centuries of discourse and dialect.
I can tell by your gestures, that you cannot understand how anyone acquainted with the facts and arguments can believe in a God who created the world. Well, I am one of many who hold to the faith in full view of what science and philosophy is telling us.
If you give me time, I will be happy to show you where science ends and where faith begins. But again, let me warn you- that all men are biased and all live by faith. The scientist pulls a little sleight of hand and wants you to believe that he lives by fact.
The bottom line is this. When someone rejects God- that person offends Him. God’s displeasure rests on the rejecters. Do you worry about this at all? You and God are not on speaking terms. You feel like you have very good reasons that He does not exist. Now, if He does exist, you are in trouble. Your anti-God glasses are not an excuse for refusing to acknowledge or thank Him. Even the good things in your life heap up wrath because you never thanked Him for any of it- you took all the credit. You have tasted all His goodness without offering even a dime of reverence.
I am about to offend you without apology. I am telling you that God has made His existence and presence plain to you. I can give you all the sound arguments- but you will counter them all. I say creation- you say evolution. I say providence- you say accident. I say prophecy- you say human agenda. I say miracle- you say human ignorance. You ignore him because you want to.
So what am I to do?
I want to win you to Christ. But in every technique of trying to win you I cannot offend my Savior.
I apologize that the Christian church has let you down in this way. The American church in particular is a poor and impotent expression of the true gospel of Christ. We have marketed a messiah to consumers instead of boldly sharing the truth.
But again, in spite of my shortcomings, in spite of the churches failings throughout history, - the sacred canopy of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, understood by scripture alone, to God alone be the glory still stands in victory and momentum.
What am I to do? …….. I just did it.
I am to share my story and my faith. It should be plain to you by now the sort of Savior I believe in. It is God, the All-Conditioner. It is God who created all things, including you. It is He who by His providence conditioned me, making me believe in Him, and by His grace makes me want you to believe in Him. It is by His love that I can say that I love you. It is by His word that I want to serve you. It is by His truth that I will not compromise for you.
So our debate is really over. From now on, you need to take it up with Him. Down in your heart, you know I am speaking the truth. I am praying right now that God will open the eyes of your heart. But that is up to His pleasure. I do not have to save you. I cannot save you.
I have peace- do you have peace?
I am not afraid of death? Are you?
I have joy, true Biblical joy? Don’t you want to find that?
I have a purpose? Can you define yours?
I base my belief in a God inspired authority called the Bible? What is your source of truth?
Trust Christ now, please! Each moment you reject Him, the more hardened you get to Him. Your callousness will one day seal an unimaginable doom. God is a gentleman. He will give you your desire- a life without Him.
Just know that at some point the decision will be permanent. The gates of hell are locked from the inside.
I will be your friend. I hope you appreciate that I shared all of this with you because I believe I owe it to you. If I held it back, it would say one of two things. Either I really did not love you or I really did not believe this to be true.