Does God Exist? The Experiential Argument

argumentfromdesire

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends, in this video from RZIM, Stuart, John, and Margaret reflect on the Experiential Argument for God’s existence:

They are very careful not to speak against the value of logic, evidence, and arguments. But at the same time, they are wisely drawing our attention to the importance and significance of human experience.

How are you experiencing God? Have you ever asked someone who is not a believer if they have had any supernatural experiences? Or seen a miracle take place?

You might get into some interesting conversations!

And if you have, please do share your story with us. It will be very encouraging as we all seek to grow together.

Key points:

Stuart:
The vast majority of humanity, from the beginning of time to the present day, believes in either the existence of god, the gods, or something beyond reality. The atheist or agnostic community are a very small percentage in actual belief around the world.

Margaret:
Our sense of desire, our longings, our aesthetics, our love for beauty, for something bigger than ourselves, it is all these transcendent longings that we have. It is also people’s religious experiences.

We are finite human beings who have these great, transcendent longings.

John:
My mom, could not read or write, could not give any coherent argument for God’s existence, but I cannot for that she did not know God. Arguments can actually be a distraction from us coming to know who God is.

Stuart:
A man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument. It is part of what we have. We have to account for our experiences.

John:
When we talk about knowing God, a being who is there, if all we are stuck with are just philosophical and scientific arguments, if that is all we have, we are still a step away from really knowing God, which is what God has called us to do.

Stuart:
I think experience is a pointer. It is not exhaustive. It is something very significant. Experience is a part – not the sole reason – we believe.


(SeanO) #2

You know, in my conversations with other people regarding experiencing God I find that their definition of ‘experience’ is far too narrow. By experience, they generally mean some feeling you get when you see a sunrise, listen to beautiful music or participate in prayer or worship. Defined in such narrow terms, experience can be attributed simply to sensory perceptions quite easily by a skeptic.

Even though I think those are all valid ways and times when God’s Spirit can testify with our spirit that He is, indeed, God, the Bible has a much stronger definition of experience. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8).

I think the following are all ways that God can be experienced:

  1. Obey His command and see the fruit of peace / righteousness in your life circumstances (Psalms 119 / Psalms 19 / Proverbs) - an outward fruit of obedience
  2. Experience God’s care over the years as the Good Shepherd leads and the Vineyard keeper prunes your soul (John 15 / Psalms 23)
  3. Enjoy the nearness of God in times of worship / prayer / in nature
  4. Experience the fruits of the Spirit and freedom from selfishness and pride (Ephesians 5) - an inner freedom of the heart
  5. Experience wonder as the truths of God do, rationally, explain the world
  6. Enjoy the nearness of God in times of sorrow / heartache

I think we tend to focus only on (3) - while there are so many ways to experience God.

Does anyone else have any to add to the list?


(Melvin Greene) #3

Hi Carson,

I think some times it’s easy to just focus on the intellectual arguments for the existence of God and not the experiential arguments. I can only speak for myself, but I find it difficult to tell people about my experiences with God sometimes, because it can almost sound a bit too mystical, or (dare I say) a bit psychotic. “Really?” “You heard God tell you to do such and such?” Of course, I tell them that It’s not an audible voice, but more like an idea, or an urging of sorts. Some times it’s an opportunity that presents itself; especially when praying for direction. I think about Elijah’s experience with God. He didn’t experience God in the wind, or the earthquake, or even the fire. It was the still small voice. (1Kings 19)

The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t just want intellectual consent. He wants our hearts, our passions, our love. God is a god of relationship, intimate loving relationship. That means our emotions need to be stirred. I confess that when I truly worship God, I can’t help but weep. I’m not talking about emotionalism, or emotion just for the sake of emotion. I know some people seem to want to work themselves up into some emotional frenzy. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the overwhelming feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit that stirs the soul with the realization that the Creator of the universe loves me so much that He died for a wretched person like me.

Anyway, I struggle at times trying to convey that to people who don’t believe, or who are not Christians. Thanks for sharing that Carson. I like that idea of asking a non-believer if they had experienced something that seemed supernatural, or a miracle. I’ll have to try that.

Mel G.


(A S FLINT) #4

While all of these points are wonderful. For me I found GOD to be the only supernatural being who could oppose the enemy in my life and my agreement with his to make this captive free. He is wonderful powerful, glorious and mighty, omnipresent. omnipotent, The Almighty who steeped into my life as I was drowning and he pulled me out of many waters. GOD meets each person where they are at. I was being tormented and I was crying out for GOD to HELP! And He heard me. I trusted HIM in child like faith and began to read the Word. And He spoke in a still small voice. Sharing, I needed a cleansing and repentance, deliverance or freedom. He put all the pieces together. I just had to say yes, I want to be free.

I know GOD exist who is greater than the Evil one who also exists.

:sunny:
A S FLINT


(Keldon Scott) #5

This is a great discussion. We recently through Reach and Love Lansing put on a program called The Warriors Table which has been done for the last 5 years before Easter and before Thanksgiving each year. We took on the topic of why suffering this Thanksgiving.
We acknowledged the barrier of faith that suffering creates at times. We then gave 7 responses to the issue that we as Christians should be equipped to provide. The elective “Why Suffering” was instrumental in the organization of the program. The first three or four responses_emphasized text_ were intellectually driven. While some men had never heard the responses like free choice and the nature of the question assuming the existence of God, they were most moved by the experiential.

  1. We explained the irrationality of the renounce God and die position. But, we had a gentleman who killed a driver while praying that his semi truck would not crash into the driver’s side door. His point was his faith was shaken (renouncing God crossed his mind) but it was not broken because of the foundation his parents enabled by training up a child in the way it should go.

  2. For the response to those who complain that God should never have created them just to send them to hell or to subject them to known pain and suffering, we had a gentleman explain his decision to have a daughter. Bringing a new life into this world knowing full well that his daughter might suffer. His explanation of a father’s perspective and our Father’s perspective was moving.

  3. For the response that suggests that suffering draws us back to God, I was able to share my testimony as a prodigal. God spoke through a megaphone to me. My striving and world ways were leading me away, but the Hound of Heaven was after me, wanting to have me back. The experience of surrender was necessary, and that choice led to freedom, peace, relationship, and joy.

  4. We ended with 20 yr old Josh Townsend who is the Pianist for the Southern Gospel quartet Legacy Five. His testimony included abuse by a father he never knew, who killed his twin brother in the womb, along with his experiences of seizures, stroke, melanoma, and heart issues caused in part by the abuse perpetrated against him in the womb. His conclusion: God’s been good in my life. He sang it. wholly moving.The comfort and peace that is derived from actual experience of the relationship was his message.

It was when we turned from the intellectual (which is necessary from time to time to provide the bridge over the chasm of doubt and confusion) to the heart and experience of God’s intervention that men were moved. Lives were changed, because of the experiences of our brothers. In order to tell the experience of God’s peace and love on a daily basis one does have to surrender. One cannot experience that kind of peace and love until that choice is made. It’s got to be tried.

Thank you RZIM, @CarsonWeitnauer, @Ivy_Tyson, @Vince_Vitale, and the entire online team for the why suffering elective. Our Warriors Table Thanksgiving event would not have been the same. But, more importantly, the surrendered lives which had the angels rejoicing in heaven would not have been the same.


(Carson Weitnauer) #6

Hi @Keldon_Scott, thank you for sharing this story. This is inspirational! I love that you had so many testimonies at this event, from so many different perspectives. To hear the intersection of the personal and the intellectual through people’s own stories in the community is a brilliant way of doing it. What I love about this is that nearly anyone in Connect, with the support of their church home, should be able to do a similar program for their community. As people share their story of how God has changed their life through suffering, it seems to me that would help to keep each event culturally relevant and engaging for those who participate.


(joyce yung) #7

I totally agree. Josh’s testimony serves as a reminder to me that sometime I am like the older brother in the lost son. Quite ungrateful for all the blessings :hugs:

JY


(Jolene Laughlin) #8

In a way, I have to say that experience is really the entire point. Isn’t it our claim that we have a personal God who reaches out to us? If we do not base any of our beliefs on a personal experience or encounter with God, is He really as personal as we claim? I was strongly reminded of the fact that our God stands out because of his willingness to draw close to us when I observed a heated Facebook argument taking place right around Easter last year.

Some fairly well-known, secular media outlet (I don’t remember now who it was) had posted an article that presented some of the historical evidence that Christ existed as a man at a given time in history, and since it was a well-known publication it drew a lot of fire from atheists and agnostics for embracing fiction and being “anti-science.” Two men in particular were posting rebuttals quite aggressively, and a few Christians were heatedly engaging with them. It had become an ugly exchange based on logic and reason and they were hurtling arguments and accusations back and forth at each other like crazy. I was preparing to address one of the statements myself when I saw this young woman enter the exchange. She posted something along these lines “Thank you (whichever group it was) for posting this article and being unbiased enough to recognize the diversity of your readership. I appreciate this article very much.”

This immediately drew fire from several atheistic warriors out there. She simply responded with something along these lines: “Your arguments don’t make a difference to me. You don’t have to believe He exists if you don’t want to. All I know is that I’ve had some really rough times lately, and through all of it, He has been there.”

It immediately took the wind out of everyone’s sails. Several of the most vicious people even backed down saying “I’m sorry things have been rough, and am glad that you’ve found something that helped you get through it.”

I just had to take a deep breath, because I had been preparing to charge into battle with everything I’ve learned to date, and without any of that, her simple statement of belief and faith because of her intimate experience with God brought the conversation back to a civil and thoughtful level. Those atheists and agnostics didn’t capitulate to the best argument the apologists could offer, but they certainly backed down in the face of her simplicity.

I have tried to keep in mind ever since that sometimes it’s the personal aspect of God that is the most important.