Evidence of God (a reply to Elise’s comment)

In a previous post, Elise responded with some great questions and doubts about repeatable proof of the existence of God based on the spiritual experiences of people of faith. I responded, but my reply was so long I had to turn it into another post, which seems to be a common occurrence. This is a humble and probably bad attempt to explain what I mean in my own experience when I say the existence of God and spiritual truth is measurable and repeatable on a personal and spiritual level. Some optional prerequisite reading would be a previous post- “Empirical evidence for spiritual truth?” which was inspired by parts of Sam Harris’ book – The End Of Faith, plus the comment dialog that followed.

My basic motivation behind this post is to give more concrete examples of what I mean when I talk about spiritual truth being measurable and repeatable, specifically involving the unique problems that come along with proving the existence of a person when physical proof is not available.

Personal evidence for God did not come from careful logic tests, but rather was forced upon me before I ever cared about such things at all. When I first encountered God, it was overwhelming and powerful – close to a vision but not quite something that was visual, and it left me in tears – it was the happiest day of my life. In the last 18 years since, I have encountered God pretty much daily to a much lesser or greater degree, but each encounter leaves a single impression on me that I had met the same person, as if the encounter itself came with a spiritual signature that testified of its authenticity beyond any doubt whatsoever. There is no denying each account – I had the very same feelings, very same reactions, and felt the very same familiar sensation when in God’s presence as the first time I encountered Him. It’s too amazing and unique of an experience to forget, so each new experience is not a new one to me, but like a new visitation of an long time friend, with complete recognition, in a spiritual sense, given to me in spades. This is my measurable, repeatable evidence. With many, many others I know, this is the same way they experience God too. Whether or not He exists is hardly a question. Hearing God and knowing His voice is something that is common to us.

So here is the difficult thing with proving God’s existence by a consistent pattern of behavior towards other people – in my discussions with others, they seem to experience God in unique ways very different that I. Their relationship and God’s activity in their lives is quite different then mine. He isn’t quite like gravity where it behaves exactly the same way for all people and thus can be compared on behavior alone. There is another quality that is the basis of comparison.

This makes complete sense to me on some ethereal level, but to explain it, I can’t seem to find the right words, so I’ll probably loose most people in this craziness, but I’ll give it a try. It’s more like a bunch of people who all think they know a person in common trying to describe that person’s personality from their unique perspectives which are based on knowing and spending time with them a little or a lot. The point is not whether the person in common is real or not to each person, for they all know they experienced him, but if the person in question is indeed the same person. One person is his wife, another his nurse, another his co-worker. Each saw a different side of the same person, and depending on the context, had a uniquely different relationship with him. How would they all know it was the same person they are talking about? The way we recognize a person cannot be easily compared without using physical attributes, but the communication that happened can most definitely be. Eventually, everyone can compare conversations they had with this guy, and they will know pretty quickly if the conversation and the things he said sound like the same one they got from the same guy. This is my repeated experience on how we know we are talking about the same God, and we all see consistent, repeatable, measurable similarities. I have talked to hundreds of people about their experiences with God, and it became very obvious that we were talking the same person.

Like you, I’ve always found my emotions to be very unreliable when interacting with God in prayer or meditation. Even though my emotions are not reliable, my sense of recognition when someone is talking to me is decidedly NOT. Sometimes I feel great peace, but sometimes I feel even more anger or less peace then when I started. But again, it’s not like I’m interacting with a stove which gives off heat every time I go near it, I am interacting with a person, who never interacts with me the same way twice, like a robot or computer or something. So talking to God in some ways is like talking to my wife. I don’t always feel the same way whenever I interact with her. I don’t think it is so much because of her, but more to do with my wildly shifting internal state of mind. Some days I’m more perceptive and empathic and other days I’m more self-centered and angry. My state of mind seems to alter my perception of things in a spiritual sense and my feelings are all over the place. However, when the message does come, even though I may not want to receive it or outright reject it, it comes with the same stamp of recognition of the person who gave it as if my wife were talking to me. So my experiences when praying amount to a complex arrangement of God actually trying to communicate with me and my own ability to concentrate and hear Him beyond my mind’s frenzied activity. I think that is why the best time for God to speak to me is in the middle of the night when my brain has settled down. I know God is real by what I’ve said in previous paragraphs, and my perception of his inconsistency in the way He responds to me when praying to Him is both a combination of my state of mind and His personal choice. It seems the measurable, repeatable evidence for Him can’t be done here because my mind is not exactly a “controlled” environment.

Thanks Elise for helping me think about these things! I’m really worse than I thought when it comes to writing about my experiences with God – it’s really hard to describe or put into words. 🙂

    2 Responses to “Evidence of God (a reply to Elise’s comment)”

    1. Elise

      I really like how you described interacting with God as interacting a person – who never interacts the same way twice. I can see exactly how this works in my interactions with others, and it only makes sense that the same idea would apply to interactions with God. Quite frankly, my husband can do or say the exact same thing two times, and my response the second time may very well be absolutely different than my response the second time. It’s me who has changed – like you said, one day I may be feeling empathetic and caring, the other day I may be feeling self-centered and angry.

      I’m intrigued by your approach to faith and would love to ask you a few questions. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I have a Mormon background like mindonfire.com John. Even though I’ve realized I don’t have belief or faith in the dogmas of that religion, I’ve never questioned God’s existence. I’ve also had very real experiences with God that would be hard for me to deny or blow off as emotions. But I have a really hard time figuring out what I believe and don’t about God – so here comes my questions for you. No pressure – don’t answer anything you don’t want to! I’m sincerely interested, though.

      Where is the foundation of your perception of God – is it in the Old or New Testament, or is it in the teachings of religious folks, or is it generally just based on your own personal experiences? Do you think God interacts with the world on a personal level, like reaching down and healing someone from cancer; or do you have a sense for a more non-meddling God who set things into motion and loves us but doesn’t alter things? I’ve gathered that you believe in God from a Christian point of view, but do you relate to any other faith tradition’s views/beliefs/interactions with God? And lastly, how do you interpret atheism or other non-God centered worldviews – why does God speak so strongly to some and not at all to others? I have a really hard time figuring out that last one, and if anything were to cause doubt in God’s existence for me, this would be it.

      I hope I’m not being nosy! I’m on a faith journey myself and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know about your’s online.

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    2. Jonathan
      Author Comment

      Elise, Some great questions! I’ve been on vacation for so long I haven’t had a chance to look at the website — sorry for a delay in posting a response. I’ll give you a little background about me that will hopefully explain things.  It ended up getting so long I had to turn it into a post again :)  When I got done, I realized I had only answered two of your questions!  Stay tuned for more… I’ll keep going.

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