What It Means to Know God
In his book, The Moral Landscape, neuroscientist and neo-atheist Sam Harris claimed that “the major religions remain wedded to doctrines that are growing less plausible by the day. While the ultimate relationship between consciousness and matter has not been settled, any naïve conception of a soul can now be jettisoned on account of the mind’s obvious dependency upon the brain.”1 After Francis Collins, a physical chemist, medical geneticist, and the former head of the Human Genome Project professed his faith in Christ and published The Language of God, Harris responded: “To read it is to witness nothing less than an intellectual suicide. It is, however a suicide that has gone almost entirely unacknowledged: The body yielded to the rope; the neck snapped; the breath subsided; and the corpse dangles in ghastly discomposure even now – and yet polite people everywhere continue to celebrate the great man’s health.”2
Most of us remember reading (Cosmos) or hearing Carl Sagan say, “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be.” In another of his books, Broca’s Brain, Sagan discussed the word “God,” and called attention to the fact that “not everyone does know what is meant by ‘God.’” He went on to explain: “The concept covers a wide range of ideas. Some people think of God as an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others – for example, Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein – considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe…Whether we believe in God depends very much on what we mean by God.”3
Have these men categorically disproved the existence of God? Or, was Francis Schaeffer correct when he wrote his book The God Who Is There and affirmed the existence of the Triune, personal God? The law of non-contradiction demands that either God exists, or he does not exist. Both cannot be true in the same sense and at the same time. In this series, we will address the questions you have about the knowability of God, including topics such as what we can know, the justification of knowledge, and how we know. Contrary to Harris, Sagan, and others, theologian J.I. Packer maintains that we are made for God and that our aim in life is to know God. “Disregard the study of God,” he warns, “and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder though life blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”4
1 Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (New York: Free Press, 2010), 158-159.
2 Ibid., 160.
3 Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (New York: Random House, 1979), 281-282.
4 J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 14-15.
Click on the chapters below to download.
What It Means to Know God, Part 1
What It Means to Know God, Part 2
What It Means to Know God, Part 3
What It Means to Know God, Part 4
What It Means to Know God, Part 5
What It Means to Know God, Part 6
What It Means to Know God, Part 7
What It Means to Know God, Part 8
What It Means to Know God, Part 9