• Lené A. Pienaar

Searching for Truth

How can we be sure there is a God or who He might be? There has to be something more concrete than “Just believe” or “Take a leap of faith” to trust in.


Searching for Truth

INTRODUCTION


One of the characteristics of us humans, that separates us from other creatures, is our need to worship. All through history, through every culture and every race, we find this common thread of seeking out God and paying homage to him or them. Who or what we worship often depends on what we were exposed to growing up. Then at some point in our lives we start asking questions, like: What is truth? How can we be sure we actually have it? What if we only believe what we do because someone told us to? It takes the very bravest of us to follow those questions to wherever they may lead.

But surely our question can be answered. Surely we can expect something better than, “Just believe“. If there is such a thing as truth, there must be a way to know we have found it. If there is an absolute fixed point in the universe (a something that cannot be affected by, or brought under the power of anything else), there will be some form of evidence it is there. A God's presence would affect everything else. Even Richard Dawkins, one of the loudest voices for atheism, agrees when he says:

“A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference. God could clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science.” – Richard Dawkins (link)

Do we have any evidence of a God like that? Is there a God who has shown His absolute authority by “spectacular demonstrations of his power” that can be proven by the “exacting standards of science”? If the answer to that question is yes – then we have found what we were looking for. If no, then any and every religion is a leap in the dark, hoping something is actually there.

The structure of our discussion

Our discussion will first apply the test of looking for measurable evidence of a God. Then if we have found a “provable God,” we need to ask what the implications of that fact may be: What would that mean for us humans? And how would we approach Him?


Section One:

EVIDENCE OF A GOD

If we look for evidence of a God through all the world's major religions we immediately discover that a number of them are of no help in our search. We think of the religions of the Far East, like the Japanese Shinto and Chinese Taoism. These religions teach a way of life, a means of becoming one with the universal energy. They don't lead to a knowable God and therefore don't offer any proof that such a God exists.

Go West and you find the religions of Hinduism and ​Buddhism, which teach man to reach a state of self-perfection through disciplines, meditations and more. Buddhism, like the religions of the Far East, doesn't have a divine or eternal God. Hinduism, on the other hand, has more gods than any other religion – 33 supreme beings and a countless number of lesser ones. But it makes no attempt at evidence, it simply argues that their existence cannot be proved.

Then we can look at the mystery religions, those who believe that enlightenment is found in secret knowledge that only the worthy can decipher. Examples are Gnosticism, Theosophy and New Age. While they do believe in a hierarchy of beings that exercise force on mankind, they set themselves as the enemy of the creator-God, so they make no attempt to prove His existence.

Which leaves us with the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Let us start with Islam. Here is the first religion where followers make an attempt at proving their God. They use two arguments:

  • Firstly: that all of creation is living evidence that a creator-God must exist. The argument being that the natural world, with all its complexity and inter-dependance, makes intelligent design (and therefore a creator) the only reasonable option for how it came to be.​​

“The existence of the universe and the excellence of its order is the reflection and the proof of existence of God” – Islamic source (link)

  • Secondly: that practicing Islam will provide evidence of God, because of the light and peace its followers experience:

“The ‘light’ of the knowledge of God is found in the guidance, spiritual direction, and the sense of peace that believers attain by practicing Islam... The greatest proof for the existence and Lordship of Allah, then, is discovered in the experiences of the heart” – Islamic source (link)

Their first point (if fleshed out properly), actually becomes a powerful argument for the existence of a creator-God. But it does not prove that their religion leads to Him. As a result, they cannot prove that Allah (their deity), is that creator.

Their second argument is less helpful. It can be summed up as, “Just believe and then you'll see”. But we are looking for something more concrete than that. If this then is where the trail of evidence dries up, we might be tempted to agree with the atheist Richard Dawkins, that we do not have enough evidence to conclude there must be a God, or who He might be:

“Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think” – Richard Dawkins (link)

But the fact is that we do have evidence of a mighty God acting upon this earth. Evidence that is supported by science, geology and archaeology. A God has revealed Himself through demonstrations of extraordinary power (many, many times over), and objective, scientific methods are able to confirm it. A God who shows Himself so, ”that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.” – 1 Kings 8:60 (Bible)

We have an abundance of evidence, too much to deal with here, so we have devoted a section of our website to discuss it at length. Please take a look at the following link:

EVIDENCE OF GOD

For the purpose of this argument, we will use just one approach as our evidence of God. We will take it from the following quote, where the God of the Bible (after a few centuries of demonstrating His power), throws out an interesting challenge to the gods of other religions:

“Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen... declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear... But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless” – Isaiah 41:22-24 (Bible)

Before we go into the Bible's evidence, let's take a look at the other major religions, to see if they can prove their power through prediction. Do they know the future in advance?


Section Two:

PROPHECY AS PROOF

In most all religions

When we look through the religions of Shinto, Taoism, Hinduism, ​Buddhism, Bahai, Gnosticism, Kabbalism, Theosophy and New Age, we discover that they make little (or in many cases no), attempt at prophecies – with one interesting exception. All of them expect a prophet, messiah or ascended master of some sort to appear and usher in a new age of global peace and religious unity. But since this has not come to pass yet, there is no concrete evidence they can offer of their god's prophetic powers. So in short they cannot prove their deities through the test of prophecy.

In Islam

Islam stands apart from the other religions here again, because it does make claims of fulfilled prophecy. For example the text, “And when the mountains are made to move,” in the Quran is said to be fulfilled. “Centuries before the invention of dynamite, the holy Quran prophesied the blowing up and moving of the mountains.” Similary it is argued that the words, “They will alter Allah’s creation,” is evidence of the advancements that would be made in science. The holy Quran has prophesied the plastic surgery, genetic engineering and cloning in this short and concise sentence.”

Now some might find that to be convincing enough. But we think you may agree that this is very thin evidence because the texts are too short and vague to offer much to work with. Even students of Quran argue that this is a manipulation of its text:

“There are many websites and resources cropping up claiming that the Qur’an contains many prophecies that have been fulfilled due to the advancement of knowledge of our universe and advances in modern life. However all of the claims examined so far show that, using hindsight, some apologists are taking one verse, or a partial verse; or even a loose translation of the Qur’an out of context in order to twist the words to find prophetic statements within. This is to say that they may take some of our current knowledge, ie. airplane technology, and then search for a Qur’an verse or a partial verse, and twist it to make it ‘fit’. Many of these claims of prophecy are incorrect; disproven in fact... when read in context.” – Islamic source (link)

In Judeo-Christianity

When it comes to prophecy, the Bible is completely in its own league. No other book in all the world can offer even one prophecy of the sort found in the Bible. Yet the Bible has more than two thousand five hundred prophecies, stretching over thousands of years. We do not mean vague statements which could be bent in any direction. No, we mean specific, measurable predictions, which contain names, places, dates and outcomes that we can test against history. It is as if the Bible is saying, “Here is what the future holds, and nothing can change what is coming. Look and see that God is able to do what He sets Himself to.” Let's offer an example in the prediction made against the city of Tyre, written by Ezekiel in roughly 590BC:


PROPHECY AGAINST TYRE

“Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will cause many nations to come up against you... And they shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock... I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, with chariots, and with horsemen, and an army with many people. ‘He will slay with the sword your daughter villages in the fields; he will heap up a siege mound against you, build a wall against you, and raise a defense against you... They will plunder your riches and pillage your merchandise; they will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses; they will lay your stones, your timber, and your soil in the midst of the water... you shall be a place for spreading nets, and you shall never be rebuilt, for I the LORD have spoken,” – from Ezekiel 26:3-14 (Bible)

At the time of this prophecy, Tyre was very unlikely to fall. It was so great that it rivalled the Roman Empire in wealth, power and influence. The city was an impenetrable fortress of two halves, one on the coast of the mainland, the other about 800m offshore, on an island in the Mediterranean Sea.

A few years after this prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar did indeed come against Tyre. He cleared a path through surrounding villages until he laid siege on the mainland portion of the city. It offered impressive resistance, but after more than 10 years it finally fell in 573B.C. Nebuchadnezzar raized it to the ground, taking all its loot and leaving nothing but rubble when he left. He did try his hand against the island portion of the city, but he could not seize it. And no wonder, because it stood like a great fortress surrounded by high walls right up to its rocky shores and a powerful fleet protected its waters.

The Island Fortress of Tyre


A couple centuries later, Alexander the Great demanded access to the strategic island city of Tyre. They refused and so he laid seige to it as well. He took the rubble Nebuchadnezzar had left behind when he destroyed the mainland city, and threw it into the sea to build a crossing to the island. But with heavy resistance from Tyre and the deepening waters, he struggled to get close enough to take the island. Since he did not have a fleet of his own, Alexander pressured many other coastal cities into offering him ships so he would have a fleet to help in the siege. Cyprus, Rhodes, Soli, Mallos, Macedon and Lycia all gave him ships. With their protection he could complete the causeway and capture the island of Tyre. This too was destroyed, and its building rubble cast into the sea.

“Alexander the Great reduced it to ruins (332B.C.)... The larger part of the site of the once great city is now bare as the top of a rock – a place where fishermen that still frequent the spot spread their nets to dry” – Philip Meyes, secular historian.

“The history of Tyre does not stop after the conquest of Alexander. Men continue to rebuild her and armies continue to beseige her walls until finally, after sixteen hundred years, she falls never to be rebuit again.” – John C. Beck

Tyre Underwater Ruins

“Tyre is still in use today. Small fishing vessels lay at anchor there... the port has become a haven for fishing boats and a place for spreading nets... yet evidence of a great past are abundant... Looking down into the water one can see a mass of granite columns and stone blocks strewn over the sea bottom.” – Nina Jidejian

And so we have a detailed prophecy that took about 250 years or more to be completely fulfilled, and the main instruments God used to do that were kings who did not even serve Him.

Our point here is simply this: The Bible stands absolutely alone, as the only book penned under inspiration of a God who can prove that He sees and knows the future. Why is prophetic power such important evidence in our discussion? How does that help us find concrete evidence of the truth?

WHAT DOES PROPHETIC POWER PROVE?

Accurate prophecy, that only one source can produce, and which is repeatedly fulfilled, proves four things:

  • The God of the Bible must be unlike any other so-called God, because He can do what they cannot.

  • He must be outside of or beyond the limits of time, because He is able to tell of future events thousands of years before they ever happen. Predicting events in the near future is much easier since a lot of variables are already known, but prophecies hundreds of years in advance, those cannot be denied as powerful proof.

  • Also if God is outside the limits of time (which is a law of nature), that must mean He is also beyond the other laws of nature which govern the universe. This is what we would expect of the being that created all things, since a creator must be both outside of, and greater than his creation.

  • It also means His power must be the ultimate power, because once He has predicted the future, nothing and no one must be able to change that outcome, or to steer events in a different direction. Every other creature must be subject to that final outcome, and powerless to avoid it.

Let us offer another example of the Bible's prophetic power.

THE RISE & FALL OF EARTH'S KINGDOMS

One of the most famous Biblical prophecies was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in 603BC. He woke from it so troubled that he simply had to have the interpretation. Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams”. The king demanded that they tell him both the dream and the interpretation, or he would kill them. He said, “ ‘tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.’ The Chaldeans answered ... ‘There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests.’”

But Daniel prayed to the God of Israel, and God gave him both the dream and its meaning.


“The king answered... ‘[Daniel] Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?’Daniel answered... ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days... what would come to pass after this... You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image!... This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth’ “ – Extracts from Daniel 2.


Artists Impressions of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream by Bruce Long (source)

After telling Nebuchadnezzar his dream, Daniel told him what it meant:

“You, O king... are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others... the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it... the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed... it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” – Extracts from Daniel 2


So this dream shared with the Great King Nebuchadnezzar, what mighty kings and kingdoms would follow his own, right to the end of days. The prophecy covers a period of roughly 2500 years (and counting). All has come to pass, except for the final stages of the dream.

But this prophecy actually didn't end with the king's dream, because afterwards Daniel had another dream and a later vision (recorded in chapters 7&8) which gave him more names and details of how these future kingdoms would rise and fall. Let's combine some of that info into a summary here:

The Head of Gold = Babylonia

  • According to the prophecies: The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar himself and the Babylonian Empire. His was the greatest of all the kingdoms (except for the final Kingdom of God which would destroy the others and never end).

  • According to history: Babylonia stood as an impressive kingdom with that great city of Babylon as its capital. It lay in possibly the most fertile of all regions with multiple rivers running through it. It was the pinnacle of art, trade, culture and more, and boasted what is now one of the seven wonders of the world – the ”Hanging Gardens“ – which would be an impressive feat of engineering even today. While the empire's history reached back all the way to “Sargon the Magnificent” in 2300BC, it reached its height under Nebuchadnezzar. But after his death, it only took a few years to fall to the Persians.

  • Date: Babylon's rule lasted until 539BC.

The Chest and Arms of Silver = Medo-Persia

  • According to the prophecies: This represented “the kings of the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 8:20) and one of these kings would be greater than the other (Daniel 8:3). Daniel tells us this kingdom would push out its boundaries and become so great that none could stand against it.

  • According to history: Under the leadership of Cyrus the Great, the Persians rose in power until they seized control of the Medes. They then did conquer Babylonia and made Babylon their capital. The empire expanded dramatically until it covered more land than any empire had before it. And it stood with no rival for 200 years.

  • Date: The Medo-Persian Empire ruled from 539BC to 332BC.

The belly and thighs of Bronze = Greek Empire

  • According to the prophecies: Medo-Persia would be attacked from the West by the King of Greece (Daniel 8:5, 21). He would storm in with great fury and destroy the Medo-Persian kings. This Greek King's empire would be very great, but at its strongest moment he would fall and be replaced by four lesser kings (Daniel 8:8).

  • According to history: Alexander the Great (still in his early 20's), was the one who attacked Medo-Persia from the West with a devastating campaign that swept through and conquered it in only a few short years. By age 32 he had brought the Greek Empire to the greatest heights it would achieve. Then one night he was in Babylon, making plans for his next invasions when after entertaining one of his officers he suddenly developed a fever and died. Since his son was not yet born and there was no obvious successor, his kingdom was divided between four of his generals.

  • Date: The Greek Empire ruled from 332BC to 63BC.

The Legs of Iron = The Roman Empire

  • According to the prophecies: The fourth empire was not named, only described. “A fourth kingdom on earth... shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces.” – Daniel 7:23

  • According to history: The Roman Empire fits the description very well.

  • Date: The Roman Empire ruled from 63BC to 476AD


The Feet of Iron & Clay = A mixture of strong and weak parts that will not be able to unite

  • Date: 476AD to today

  • According to the prophecies: The least impressive era would be the last, when the kingdoms of the earth would be divided and unable to form any global alliance. Within this “kingdom” there would be remnants of the powerful iron kingdom which went before, but also many parts of it would be very weak: ​

According to Daniel (and further prophecies in Revelations), the iron parts of this kingdom would surge again at, “the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17), when 10 kings will rise up to establish one final king who will be different from the rest (Daniel 7:24).

And in the latter time of their kingdom... A king shall arise, having fierce features... he shall destroy fearfully... He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity... But he shall be broken without human means [meaning by God Himself].” – Daniel 8:23-25​

  • According to history: We know that powerful nations have risen up and tried to dominate the whole earth (we think of Great Britain, Germany and even in some sense America), but none have been able to achieve that goal. However, in these days we are now living in, there is a definite shift, a strong push towards global governance (see the work of the United Nations and the World Economic Forum), there is talk of a global health system, a global currency and a global digital identity. So quite possibly the final phase of the prophecy is taking shape before our very eyes.

When it comes to the end-times, there is so much prophecy that we have dedicated an entire section of our website to it and how current world events are fulfilling Biblical prophecy and affecting Christians. For more on that, please go to the following link:

THE END-GAME

If all of Daniel's prophecies have come to pass thus far, what should make us imagine that the remaining ones, set for the end of days, will not also come true? When he was given the king's dream and its meaning he said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings... He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” – Daniel 2:20-22

Daniel was confident that God would do what He was revealing before any part of the dream had come to pass. Without the benefit of the 2500 years of history that we have to look back on, he trusted his God. What reason can we offer, to doubt that the rest of this prophecy will also come true?

Only a God who stands outside the limits of time can see the course of human history thousands of years before it ever happens. He must be a God who knows the future, and in foretelling it, He shows His confidence that no enemy has the power to stop it. He must be a God like no other, because none can resist His mighty hand. In short, He must be the only true God.

So the predictive power of the Bible stands as a monumental piece of evidence that the God of the Bible exists and is, in fact, the God of creation. We can say with confidence then that there is something far more concrete than “Just believe” to trust in. God has made an effort to stamp His presence into human history, to prove to even the mightiest nations of the earth that He is the One true God. Kingdoms rise when he lets them rise, and they fall when He brings them down. History and prophecy testify to that time and time again.​


If we wanted to take more time here, we could talk about how Egypt was judged and told she would become a lowly kingdom and never rise to the heights of her glory under the Pharos. Or we could talk about how Babylon was judged and told she would become a deserted city, never to be inhabited again:

“And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation.” – Isaiah 13:19-20a

This has been true for a few thousand years. But only recently Saddam Hussein dreamed of rebuilding her ruins, and spent millions fixing a few chosen structures. But since his downfall, these are now falling into ruin with the rest of the ancient city.

“Over 15 years after Saddam’s fall from power, his palatial tribute to the emperor [Nebuchadnezzar] has become a ghostly shell. Broken glass and graffiti are scattered through the once-grand palace halls.” – Inside the Abandoned Babylon That Saddam Hussein Built (link)

Saddam Hussein clearly expected a more glorious end to this story when he had bricks inscribed with the declaration:

“In the reign of the victorious Saddam Hussein, the president of the Republic, may God keep him the guardian of the great Iraq and the renovator of its renaissance and the builder of its great civilization, the rebuilding of the great city of Babylon was done.”

While these words were meant to reveal the power of his god, they are now just another reminder that the words of the only true God cannot be denied. We take the time to show many more examples of prophecies and their fulfilment in our discussion at the following link: ​

A UNIVERSE WITH A GOD

Accepting then that there is evidence of a God who can “clinch the matter in his favour at any moment by staging a spectacular demonstration of his powers, one that would satisfy the exacting standards of science,” we have to ask – what are the implications of that fact on us, as humans?


Section Three:

IF GOD IS GOD – WHO ARE WE?

If God stands as the fixed point in the universe – the single, absolute, unchangeable truth – that has implications for us. He is the creator of the universe we live in, along with the laws of nature and rules that govern everything (including us). Whether we accept or reject Him, He is what He is, and nothing can change that. In short: we are not in control, He is.

“Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.” – Deuteronomy 10:13

This can be an uncomfortable thought, but it does lead us to the next obvious question. Where do we stand in relationship to Him? Does He intend to do us harm or good? What does He want from us?

Of course the answer to these questions would also have to come from Him. It doesn't help we try to dream up our own rules for life or worship, because they will be meaningless in His eyes. He is God, therefore He determines everything. All we can do is either submit to His ways or reject them – that is as simple as things truly are.

Our logic tells us that to approach God, we need to prove our worthiness by acts of service, devotion, self-discipline, obedience and so forth. This is the basic approach of every world religion. They attempt to improve the state of a man – to perfect the human condition.

The God of the Bible however, says that this is futile, and attempting self-perfection offers no hope to mankind. Instead, because mankind had no other hope, God stepped into history to provide one – an extraordinary one.


CONCLUSION

God has left us an impressive amount of real proof of who He is and His power to affect the course of history. The Bible contains 2500 detailed prophecies. 2000 of these were for past events – the same 2000 have been fulfilled to the letter! Only a God who knows the future and stands outside of time could do this. 500 Prophecies remain, waiting for “the end of days”. Surely these will also come to pass. The God of the Bible alone has proved Himself all-powerful, and all-knowing.

We conclude then that there is ONLY ONE TRUE GOD. Even the greatest kingdoms of the earth, with all their many gods, have been powerless to stand against Him. Therefore the God of the Bible can say:

“Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen... declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear... But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless.” – Isaiah 41:22-24 (Bible)​

If we are going to approach this mighty God, then we have to ask Him how He would have us do that. And the truth is, His Word says there is only one way to Him. We will explore this in the next phase of our discussion, Spiritual Birth.

“there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – I Timothy 2:5



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