Can we trust our feelings when it comes to the existence of God?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Can we trust our feelings and what we tell ourselves about God? How do we know He really exists just based on our feelings or our telling ourselves that He does? Feelings are so fleeting — and they often change! What if the ancient biblical writers just wanted to write stories to make life more livable... since back then life was scary and hard?

Answer: I love this question! I would add to it that life is scary and hard today too... and we still could use some stories of comfort! So, has anything really changed? Well, we have better electronics than the ancient Bible writers — so we have access to a lot more stories! But are we better off as a people because of that? Or are we in the same old mess?

I’d say we’re in the same old mess... and today’s task is the same as it was back then: we must look at all the data and come up with the most logical model to explain life as we see it... while being cautious of our feelings about it. But to come up with a truly unbiased model of the universe, we must consider all the data — and fear none of it!

So, here’s the algorithm for deciding whether or not to believe in God: if we find enough evidence to conclude there’s more than a 50% probability that God exists, then it is logical to believe in God. But if we find enough evidence to conclude that there’s less than a 50% probability that God exists, then it is logical not to believe in God. The thing we should not do is sit there and waffle... because God either exists or he doesn’t... and finding this out is a big deal... too big to leave to your feelings alone.

I find it freeing to put God on the spot like this. If people are honest with the data, their worldview will likely include God eventually... and they will be at peace with their feelings Why? Because God is in the revealing business more so than he is in the concealing business. In fact, he has revealed himself in at least seven ways — and one of them is bound to resonate with a person’s philosophical pallet! So let me list those seven ways, and then I’ll discuss one of them in more detail to show you their power.

First, God has given us his written revelation in the Bible. Second, he has given us his general revelation in creation. Third, he has given us his living revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. Fourth, he has given us his spiritual revelation in the person of the Holy Spirit. Fifth, he has given us his moral revelation in the human conscience. Sixth, he has given us his functional revelation in human intelligence, and seventh, he has given us the revelation of our own free will.

As to your question, these provisions from God fit our human needs exactly. This is strong evidence that a personal being — one who wants to be known by us — has created us so we can work at knowing him — and not just at feeling him. But the proofs of his existence are not slam-dunks. If they were absolutely conclusive, then what would the role of faith be in the process? ... and at what point would we not have free will?

Besides, knowing God as he wants to be known means coming to him in faith (Hebrews 11:6). And although knowledge is in the mix, faith is a necessary component to connect with God. But a faith relationship comes with a price: there will always be a niggling voice in our heads going, “Is this really how life works? Or am I fooling myself!” That’s quite normal. If we realize the object of our hope, then hope is no longer hope (Romans 8:24). In the same manner, faith is no longer faith after it’s consummated.

Also, part of faith is working with God (1 Timothy 4:16) — and he’s given us plenty to work with! If we pray, read the Bible, fellowship and serve in a local church, that voice of doubt will fade away. We will be too busy acting as if we believe in God to quibble about whether or not he exists. This is Christian maturity. This is discipleship... and discipleship should be everybody’s target (Matthew 28:18-20).

I’m going to conclude by talking about the fifth item on my list — the moral revelation in the human conscience. Romans 2:14-15 tells us what everybody knows to be true about the world: it’s an evil place. However, the only reason we can make that judgment is that we have consciences, and these consciences let us compare the empirical conditions with an overarching moral code that pervades the universe.

But note this well, it’s not just we Christians who understand this. Everyone understands this — because everyone has a conscience, and all people groups have a moral code as part of their "feelings." I’ll use this one revelation as an example of how to turn feelings-based belief into an evidence-based belief in God.

The Moral Argument for the Existence of God goes like this:

Premise one: if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

Premise two: but objective moral values do exist.

Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

(Watch this brief YouTube video. It will give you the details of why premises 1 & 2 are true: )

So, if you believe that objective moral values and responsibilities exist in the world — and they demonstrably do — this is reason enough to believe in God! (... but it’s okay to have positive feelings about this too!)

The argument from morality is just one of many extra-biblical arguments for the existence of God. I have discussed four more of these in another question-and-answer. (The link follows.) The idea here is that when you’re having one of those moments when you just can’t rest in the word — when some "inner voice" — or some feelings — say that getting information about faith from the Bible is circular reasoning — then you can step outside of the Bible into the world the pure thought. When you do, God will be waiting for you.

It was nice talking to you. I hope this helps.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article about feelings — consider doing so at the following link: 20200203 Can we trust our feelings when it comes to the existence of God?).

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