“Knowing God is not like knowing an object in the world and so, to know God, human beings have to go beyond the rational through a ‘leap of faith’ into believing something objectively uncertain.” [i]
Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Kant, Sartre, Aquinas and many other great men have all spent their lives pondering the great philosophical questions of life we all, at some point, consider: the existence of God and the purpose of our own being. The basic ideas behind philosophy are inescapable, whether one appreciates the study or not.
This past week I had the privilege of interviewing a pastor who has been in the church planting business for some thirty years. He is not only a church planter, but a farmer whose primary goal is to reach and disciple other welsh farmers. It’s a very difficult work, and in his own words, the world of farming has been the toughest ministry context to date. He explained to me how many of these farmers grew up in the ‘old chapel’ context, which as many know, is a dying Church in this country. To them, Christianity is irrelevant and foreign to their everyday, tough, existence and thus they keep my new friend, Simon, at a friendly, arms-length. Yet he perseveres.
What is it that keeps Simon continuing in his ministry despite little apparent success? A former Oxford graduate and an obviously intelligent and engaging individual, Simon did not grow up in a churched family, but encountered God at the age of sixteen years. It was an experience with God that he did not seek after, especially since he was an atheist at the time, yet it was one that permanently impacted his life. Just two years later at the age of eighteen, felt a call by God into the pastoral ministry.
According to Raeper and Edwards, “Philosophy is not just about how to think; it is about how to live. Philosophy takes a closer look at the ideas behind how we live our lives. What we think is true affects our view of ourselves and how we treat other people and the world.” [ii]
He is convinced, as Kierkegaard was, that an individual can only be free from despair and fulfil his or her fundamental hopes by embracing the Christian message. [iii] And what is that message?
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)
Much philosophy usually focuses on the questions of God’s existence and whether it is possible to know God. However, in our quest to answer these deep questions, it is possible to overlook one important Biblical truth: that God desires to be known. It’s not a one-way search for knowing. According to this verse of Jeremiah 24, God wishes that His unbelieving people turn to Him and enjoy the experience of knowing Him. The Bible declares, God wants to be known.
For Simon, knowing God radically changed the direction and priorities of his life, and it is a knowledge he desires to spend his life encouraging others to embrace. I certainly would not consider myself a philosopher by any standards, but I have concluded, out of my own freedom, that the pursuit of knowing God is a venture worth spending my life on. Like Simon, knowing God has become a treasure greater than anything else this world has to offer. For me, this is truth, and I’ve yet heard of any other that comes even close. Have you?
[i] William Raeper and Linda Edwards, A Brief Guide to Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 106
[ii] Raeper, 11
[iii] Raeper, 106