This has been a long conversation over a month or two, and I’m struggling. Has anyone else had a similar question before? How does one start to guide a “mind” conversation to a “heart” conversation?
@Brittany_Bowman1 Thank you for sharing this question. Taking a conversation from the mind to the heart can be a difficult challenge. Is there any other information about your friend’s objections or approach to religion that might help us speak with more specificity? Here is one approach that you might take in trying to help someone see that the first step in knowing God is to take the first step. Reason can only take us so far - God as a Person who is spirit must be known relationally and not only rationally.
St. Thomas Aquinas said that if you argue honestly, a subject may never end. At some point you must move from the argument to the knowing.
May the Lord grant you wisdom as you share Christ with your friend and His Spirit open their heart to being willing to take the first step out of the boat and onto the sea of faith! Hope these thoughts are helpful.
Like Any Relationship, Knowing God is a Journey
When we are in a relationship with a friend or spouse, we will often find out new things about them years down the road. In fact, oftentimes there is always more to learn and more to understand. People’s lives are deep wells of experiences and personality. How much more so the God who created all of the beauty and glory that we see around us?
When we decide to give our lives to Christ, it is only the first step in an eternal journey to know and be known by God. In fact, Jesus is very clear that eternal life does not come from knowing how to answer all of our questions about theology, but rather is found in being known and knowing God through Him.
John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
According to Scripture, God is spirit and we are to worship and know Him in spirit and truth. In that sense, we can know God relationally even before we have all of the answers to our questions. You can enter into a relationship with Christ now and learn more about Him as you walk with Him daily and see His faithfulness to answer your prayers.
It is not Difficult to Begin the Journey
Belief is not strictly rational - it is volitional. The first step to ‘believing’ in God is to take the first step - the great leap of faith to trust that He exists and is good and to begin to try to honor Christ and pray to Him. Many of our beliefs in life are formed this way - experience is crucial to understanding.
Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Revelation 22:17 - The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
If God is Real, We Should Expect Complexity
We naturally have to do some learning to get to know God as He is rather than as we want Him to be… Lewis argues that anything that is real often meddles with our natural fancies and that if God is truly real we should expect the journey of learning about Him to be a process. Just as learning to play a musical instrument or learning history requires both effort and a willingness to lay aside old notions or bad habits that may have formed. If God were not complex it would prove that He were not God at all, but rather a god invented by men - like the pagan gods who lie and steal and commit adultery. The fact that God is other than we would expect is to be expected if He is real and He is good.
“To the large well-meant statements of ‘religion’ [Christianity] finds itself forced to reply again and again, ‘Well, not quite like that,’ or ‘I should hardly put it that way’. This troublesomeness does not of course prove it to be true; but if it were true it would be bound to have this troublesomeness. The real musician is similarly troublesome to a man who wishes to indulge in untaught ‘musical appreciation’; the real historian is similarly a nuisance when we want to romance about ‘the old days’ or ‘the ancient Greeks and Romans’. The ascertained nature of any real thing is always at first a nuisance to our natural fantasies—a wretched, pedantic, logic-chopping intruder upon a conversation which was getting on famously without it.” C. S. Lewis
Here is an article that included this quote - I am not familiar with the writer, but this particular article was thoughtful.
A Thought from Pascal’s Pensées
In “Christianity for Modern Pagans” Peter Kreeft examines Pascal’s work. One argument Pascal makes is that God gives exactly enough light for the righteous to find Him and for the wicked to reject Him.
"He gives exactly the right amount of light. If He gave less, even the righteous would be unable to find Him, and their will would be thwarted. If He gave more, even the wicked would find Him, against their will. Thus He respects and fulfills the will of all.
If He gave more light, the righteous would not learn humility, for they would know too much. If He gave less light, the wicked would not be responsible for their wickedness, for they would know too little."
Thank you! I love the St. Thomas Aquinas perspective and your thought,
“You can enter into a relationship with Christ now and learn more about Him as you walk with Him daily and see His faithfulness to answer your prayers.”< I’ve been praying this conversation nurtures my own heart as well as theirs, and this reminder is especially powerful.
This article leads directly into our conversation. They want to dig into some of the big bang theory and continued expansion of the universe. How fitting the article makes the analogy of discovery of atoms to perhaps pique their interests! Creation is a topic on my list for a while to dig into, so I will be starting fresh with them. There was also this question, “What difference does it make that one believes in a god or not, if that god is not involved in any way in this world (anymore)?”
@Brittany_Bowman1 I am glad it was helpful I had not read that quote from Pascal’s book in a while and it was a good reminder for me. Great question! I opened another thread for the new question. Blessings!
Sometimes, the Pascal quote is hard to wrestle with, as it seems like it would be so wonderful if God would reveal Himself in His full glory. However, Matthew 16 is a nudge in my heart we have enough signs, and I need to spend more time with Christ instead of asking for bigger and better.
This morning we had a sermon on Hebrews 1, and the pastor made the analogy of expecting a child. He said he enjoyed seeing the ultrasounds each visit because he could start to learn about his child. He said he eagerly waited until the due date because he could’t wait to meet his child. However, what he didn’t anticipate that to finally meet his child meant literally everything in his life had to change (sleep, finances, etc.). In many ways knowing his child only dimly through the ultrasounds was easier than the full commitment required when his child was revealed to him fully. I hadn’t heard that analogy before, but it reminded me of our conversation here.
@Brittany_Bowman1 Thank you for sharing! Yes - I also often wish for clearer guidance or for a more full revelation of God or that Christ would return, do away with injustice and set up His Kingdom. Was the Pastor’s text Romans 8 per chance? What you mentioned immediately made me think of this passage. I think one point of this portion of Romans 8 is that, as you have experienced, we should expect to long for a fuller revelation. That can be God’s Spirit groaning within us! So I think it gives positive affirmation to your experience as part of the Christian walk.
Romans 8:19-23 - 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Another text that greatly encourages me when I struggle with this feeling is I Peter 1 - which is written to a suffering Church. Peter reminds them that they have an inheritance that cannot perish, spoil or fade - it is incorruptible!
I Peter 1:3-9 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I’ve always found the following responses to these feelings helpful:
Eagerly Waiting for God Through Spirit Filled Prayer
In Luke 2 we find Simeon and Anna - both in their own way eagerly awaiting the Messiah that had been promised hundreds of years ago eagerly.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Enjoy Our Role in God’s Story on Earth
So often there are things in my life to do and enjoy and be - like Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. At the end of their great journey Frodo goes on a journey with the Elves to paradise. Sam returns to his family and community to fulfill his duty and enjoy the good things he has been given.
Of course, as Christians we may call this ‘living out our calling’ or devoting ourselves to love and good deeds. But I think the way Tolkien wrote this passage really touches that part of us that longs for ‘Aslan’s Country’ - as C. S. Lewis puts it.
“Where are you going, Master?’ cried Sam, though at last he understood what was happening.
‘To the Havens, Sam,’ said Frodo.
‘And I can’t come.’
‘No, Sam. Not yet, anyway, not further than the Havens. Though you too were a Ring-bearer, if only for a little while. Your time may come. Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do.’
‘But,’ said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, ‘I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done.’
'So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them. But you are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you. And also you have Rose, and Elanor; and Frodo-lad will come, and Rosie-lass, and Merry, and Goldilocks, and Pippin; and perhaps more that I cannot see. Your hands and your wits will be needed everywhere. You will be the Mayor, of course, as long as you want to be, and the most famous gardener in history; and you will read things out of the Red Book, and keep alive the memory of the age that is gone, so that people will remember the Great Danger, and so love their beloved land all the more. And that will keep you as busy and as happy as anyone can be, as long as your part in the Story goes on.
The honesty of your questions, beginning with the first post above, are so precious. Why, because I hear your heart really seeking answers rather than your mind. So it all lies in the motive behind the conversations - the motive for your conversation is not to be a brilliant debater but because you want them to meet Someone who has meant so much to you. Though you stumble or don’t know it all, I think that they will hear your heart. What is the motive for the conversations? I just want the other person to know the One that is so dear to my heart.
Moving on as things in the thread have regarding why doesn’t God just reveal Himself in all of His splendor? Because it wouldn’t work. It didn’t move the Israelites with the shaking mountain on fire and the trumpet blasts. They went on sinning. So did they when they found water, were given all the meat that they wanted and even after the fire consumes the altar in I Kings 18, people didn’t change and even Elijah wanted to die. That’s why Jesus saw the hard hearts when they demand a sign in Matthew 16. If Jesus appeared in the sky for the whole world to see, so many would still not believe. It’s not in the evidence as it is all around us. Romans 1 speaks of that.
I am touched by I Peter 1:8-9 where it talks about believing though we never saw Him. It is faith in action.
Finally, in regard to the sermon that you heard, I’m not sure that I agree fully with the analogy as we have 7 children but never had an ultrasound. We are all different but I was “apathetic” before each child was born, but all of the inconveniences were worth it as after only minutes, I would give my life for a child that I had just seen. However, where I think he has a point is that the more we see, the more we are responsible for. II Corinthians 5 talks about how we will be responsible for what we have done in the body. If we have more, more will be expected of us.
Brittany, getting back to the original question that you posted and not trying to butter you up, but I can tell that you have an honest, truth-seeking heart. You will go far with desiring truth. I’m reading a book right now by Jerry Bridges and his contention is: Do we really trust the Lord or not? In times of plenty yes. But in crisis - probably not. It amazes me that we can actually bless our Creator by trusting Him that He will give us all we need for life and godliness.
@SeanO and @Tim_Ramey, this speaks such truth. Tolkien must have really longed for heaven, as his writing is so heartfelt. 2 Corinthians 5 captures much of the heart-tugging of the Tolkien passage, and it’s encouraging to realize even Paul struggled so much.
Thanks for sharing the Romans 8 passage, as it brought some clarity. I’ve been wrestling with Romans 9 a bit, but seeing this portion of Romans 8 made 9 make more sense. We are all subjected to futility, but its a way for God to be revealed in the end? Anyways, thinking of how experiencing the Spirit’s groaning is evidence of God is really refreshing. Thanks.
When my friends left the faith, I couldn’t see how Christianity was relevant in modern society. However, I wanted it to be true so badly I decided to believe until I either died and found out or until God opened my eyes to something. Thankfully, I found Connect and people who have studied great lengths and can help the mind catch up with the heart. Seeing the body of Christ in action spurring on one another is to me evidence of God, in as much as our hearts’ longing.
@Brittany_Bowman1 I am encouraged by your determination to find the truth. Jesus says that “all who seek shall find” and I am confident of that truth in your life. May the Spirit of Christ give you peace, joy and guidance.
I’ve been searching for more on thoughts like this question too. I have a super cynical loved one who says, “if God wants me, he will bring me into the pearly gates.” Tough one to respond to.
Sean, thank you for that sweet, fitting story. Sam’s “I can’t come?” shows his precious longing for more. Ooo I so have that too, but like Sam, I also have so much to enjoy here first with such passion to attract others close to me it’s that very tug that Sam and I share that I’m noticing the one I noted ( loved cynic) does not seem to share. I’m just for Grace to fall more and more to draw him IN.
@HvG Yes, so much to be thankful for in this world and yet also such a desire to know Christ and be known by Him - to go further up and further in!
This is a wonderful thread everyone, thanks @Brittany_Bowman1 for asking the question.
I’m wondering if the heart conversation starts by asking about the longing of their heart. It doesn’t even have to be in a “Christian” discussion kind of conversation, or even a single conversation, but an ongoing relational dialog–people who care about one another sharing deep things. Maybe knowing the difference that coming into fellowship with God has made in satisfying the desires of your heart will speak a different kind of longing in them.
At least in our culture I think a fairly universal inner dialog might include, “if anyone really knew me they would never accept me/love me/care about me.” So we hide a part of ourselves that were pretty sure would separate us from community and we wear masks. I can’t prove to anyone that God exists, but I KNOW the change in who I am since I’ve come to know Him. The extraordinary relief when I discovered that even though I can never hide from him, he still loves me. Just as I am. That I’m worthwhile enough to be reshaped by Him and the EXTREME patience He exhibits in that process…and STILL he loves me.
If someone hasn’t known me before and after, this may not mean much to them. But because of who I was before I can identify and show compassion for this condition of hiding the real self in another. I think that my/our compassion and understanding can be a witness and evidence to the truth of the gospel and point to a means of satisfying the deep human desire to be loved fully. To belong. Permanently. Unconditionally. Unequivocally.