Someone I know posted something (vague, I know) rather interesting on Facebook a while ago. They recalled a brief but poignant conversation:
“Someone once asked me, ‘Do you need to feel God’s presence to know He is there?’ That’s a great question.”
A great question, indeed. The answers, however, were not so great. Pardon my snobbery, but I thought I could do much better. So, without further apology, here is my attempt…
In answering the question I’d have to say, “no, I don’t need to feel God’s presence to know he is there.” To say that I know God is there means three things: (1) I ‘believe’ He is there, (2) He is ‘in fact’ there, and (3) I am ‘justified’ in believing He is there. That is, I have satisfied the ‘Justified True Belief’ standard of knowledge. (A standard, by the way, that has withstood the most rigorous testing for more than 2000 years). And I can do all this without feeling his presence. Sometimes I know God is there because I feel his presence. God created us in such a way that we have the capacity to encounter and experience him directly. But other times, when that capacity isn’t working well (due to sin, perhaps), I might rely on other means to know God is there. For example, I might rely on the Kalam Cosmological Argument:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This argument proves that God is there (if he is indeed the cause of the universe). If I know the argument I can rehearse it or remember it and therefore believe that God is there. If it is in fact True that God is there and I am Justified in Believing this, then I have satisfied all three conditions for knowledge (JTB) and I really know that God is there…even if I don’t feel his presence.
And how valuable this is! I vividly remember my first semester of Bible college (and here is a story I’ve told many times, with good reason), laying awake late at night agonizing over whether or not God exists. I didn’t feel his presence but I wanted so badly to know that he was there. So I remembered and rehearsed the Kalam cosmological argument. Every night. Over and over again. This helped me to know God was there and, in turn, helped me to press on with my biblical training. Without this argument, I’m not sure I would have stayed in Bible college. I am forever grateful for this argument and arguments like it that help me to know that God is there, even when I don’t feel his presence.
For more arguments like this, see http://www.reasonablefaith.org