Posts Tagged With: God gene

 
 

Hard-Wired to Seek God

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent….” (Acts 17:22-30; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.)

How can we know God? How can we know that there is a God? And, if there is a God, how can we know what He/She/It is like?

These are important questions, from which many of the other great questions of life spring forth. These questions lay below the surface of many of our cultural debates. Later this week, I will attend the March for Life, because I believe abortion is immoral and should be illegal. Likewise, I believe homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, murder, stealing, and racism are sins. I believe that such actions and attitudes are completely opposed to God’s will for humanity. I believe they contradict the two great commandments spelled out by Jesus Christ: love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). If there were no God, then perhaps survival of the fittest, as described in the theory of evolution, would be the greatest virtue. In that case, it might be okay to murder anybody who brings inconvenience into our lives, to have sex with anybody or anything (whether they are willing participants or not), or to pursue our own desires regardless of how it affects other people.

Likewise, if God was different from how I believe He is, my moral values would be different. What if the Lord of the entire universe was more like what the Bible calls “Satan” or a being from Norse or Greek mythology? Would my ideas about right and wrong be different?

Thus, the existence and nature of God are among the most essential questions all people must face. I will share a few thoughts in the next few posts about this. In a blog like this, it may not be possible to give a perfectly satisfactory answer that will address every possible proof or objection. Entire volumes of theology and philosophy have been devoted to this subject, yet great minds find themselves disagreeing about the existence and nature of God.

However, I will state from the beginning that I believe it is possible for a rational, intelligent human to believe in God. We can know God through a process that theologians call “revelation” or “illumination.” There are two broad kinds of revelation. General revelation is available to all mankind and allows us to know that there is a God. Special revelation (particularly, God’s Word, the Bible) lets us know what that God is like; it assures us that the One True God is the one revealed by Jesus Christ, not something similar to Satan or pagan deities.

Nevertheless, I will begin where C. S. Lewis began his proof for God’s existence. He and several other authors believe that human instinct can lead us to believe in God. In his classic book, Mere Christianity, Lewis began by showing that humans tend to believe in notions of justice, fairness, righteousness, and other moral and ethical ideals. We seem to assume that there are certain ideals that all people should accept (whether different cultures or religions agree about those ideals is a different question). We even cling to certain ideals when evidence might lead us to doubt them:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (Mere Christianity, p. 6)

Why do we believe in notions like kindness and cruelty, justice and injustice? Why do we think one is better than the other? Why do we believe that everybody should accept our conviction as the one true ideal? I mentioned the two great commandments of Matthew 22:37-40 a few paragraphs ago. Modern American culture has replaced Jesus’ command with a new value to cherish over all others: tolerance. We are told that you must tolerate diverse viewpoints and lifestyles, and it seems like most Americans cannot comprehend how someone can think other values take precedence over “tolerance.” In fact, they simply cannot tolerate anybody who will not worship at the altar of tolerance! Even when rejecting the biblical “intolerant” God (or, at least, rejecting the intolerant people who say they worship Him), they offer a godlike idea in His place.

Such craving for an object of faith seems essential to our being. It seems “hard-wired” into our psyches. In Acts 17:22-30, St. Paul observed that this instinctual spiritual craving had driven the residents of Athens to build an altar “to the unknown god” (apparently the numerous ones they already had names for and myths about did not seem sufficient). In 2004, geneticist Dean Hamer claimed to have discovered that humans carry a “God gene” which predisposes us to spirituality and mysticism. While it was a controversial theory—religious thinkers like theologian/physicist John Polkinghorne believe faith cannot be reduced to genetics and biochemistry—Hamer claimed his theory is consistent with the possible existence of God. In an article in the Washington Post, he said:

“Religious believers can point to the existence of God genes as one more sign of the Creator’s ingenuity — a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence.”

(Before you jump to the conclusion that Dr. Hamer is a Christian, I must point out that he is also partially responsible for promoting the common belief that homosexuality is a genetic trait. In the coming weeks, I may quote scientists whose statements suggest the possible existence of a supreme being or creator; not all of them believe that supreme being is the God of the Bible.)

Is the ability to believe in God or the desire to know Him hard-wired into our nature? It seems that humans by nature are disposed to religious conviction. Most human cultures have a religious tradition. Although Western society is drifting from a common belief in the biblical God and traditional religious faith, seeds of religiosity abide. I mentioned the almost religious deification of “tolerance” earlier. in addition, many people have adopted a faith in “the universe” as their higher power. Others adopt a faith inspired by the spirituality of the Star Wars movies, worshiping an impersonal “Force” that manifests itself in a light and dark side. In an age when many people claim humanity has become “too enlightened for faith in God,” many merely replace the God of Scripture with other “gods” of our choosing. We cannot seem to escape it. To quote lyricist Kerry Livgren from the 1970s progressive-rock band Kansas, “Everyone needs something to believe in” (from the song, “On the Other Side“).

This religious instinct helps inspire many people to seek Christ. I know many Christians (myself included) who say they came to faith in Jesus as a result of a spiritual-searching phase. Something inside us compelled us to seek answers to questions like, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of {my} life? Is there a God? Can I know Him?” I cannot honestly say that I chose to seek God; rather, I felt something compelling me to ask these questions. The Bible tells us that nobody comes to Christ without being drawn by God (see John 6:44). Perhaps He does that by somehow tapping into Hamer’s “God gene.”

In a way that might be difficult to understand or explain, God seems to find a way to reveal Himself to people even when they have no knowledge of His Name or Scripture:

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:12-16)

Something inside all of us gives us the opportunity to seek God. Another aspect of general revelation helps us to see His hand in action. We will see His witness in creation in a forthcoming post.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Revelation and Scripture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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