Ebenezer means "stone of help," and was the name of a monument raised by the prophet Samuel, saying, "Thus far has the Lord helped us." (1 Sam. 7:12) The hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing includes the line, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come." Through God's grace you and I have made it to today. Our job is to praise God for getting us here and trust him to bring us through tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How Great is Our God

Psalm 8:1  "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Last night I heard a local trio sing "How Great Is Our God" at a church-related meeting.  I first encountered this Chris Tomlin song during Friday night large group meetings at the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship in the early '90s.  We would sing it over and over with fervor and joy, as I have heard it sung many times since.  As I listened to these three women singing last night, thoroughly enjoying the music that was washing over me, I found myself realizing the key to the song's appeal -- it's simplicity.  Sure, we can talk on and on about theology and come up with limitless things to discuss and debate regarding God, but only rarely can theology be translated well into music.  The Wesleys could do it, for instance, but many songwriters have tried and failed.  The reality is that God is so complex that limited beings like us can only hope to understand him  by seeing him in the simplest possible terms.  That's what this song does. It is theologically sound, but also recognizes that God is best described in terms of majesty, since we cannot comprehend him fully in any other way:
The splendor of a King
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice
I've been thinking over the past several months about the question of how to "prove" God.  I've known many atheists and agnostics who have said, basically, sure I would believe in a God if his existence could be proven.  I thought for years that it would be the ultimate breakthrough to come up with that "proof" and have the final argument explaining that yes, there is a God.  In the 11th century St. Anselm developed a proof of God that is known as the Ontological Argument: "God is that being than which no greater can be conceived."  Convinced?  Probably not.  Anselm tried to say that since the idea of God exists in our minds as the greatest of all possible things, and obviously nothing greater than this exists in reality since the concept of God is already the concept of the greatest of all things, then God must exist.  Or at least that is my butchering of Anselm's argument.  The point though is that Anselm's argument will not -- cannot -- convince an unbeliever that there is a God.  But what could?

The more I have pondered this the more convinced I am of this answer: God cannot be proven.  Not in an earthly or scientific manner. I may say I am convinced there is a God, but others could say my certainty was merely a psychological quirk, as if I were convinced I was Napoleon.  The reason we cannot prove God through worldly means is this: a God that can be proven isn't big enough to be God.  Really, wouldn't you be disappointed if God could be measured by an instrument or described by a mathematical equation?  He is beyond proof, as we normally describe proof. 

Is that a cop-out?  Not in the least.  I think it's just being truthful.  I recently read a new book by Dinesh D'Souza titled Forsaken, in which he tries to show that not only does God exist, but also that despite the horrors we see in this world, God is good and caring.  D'Souza seems to bend over backwards to do this.  For instance, he points out that earthquakes and volcanoes may have taken many innocent lives throughout the centuries, but they are produced by tectonic plates, which are a fundamental part of what allows life to exist on this earth, due to their job in creating carbon dioxide that plants need to live.  D'Souza has built his arguments around counter-arguments he has heard many times in debates with atheists, and indeed sometimes you can imagine him and his interlocutor coming to a stalemate.  But that hardly means he has convinced anyone of God's existence, let alone proven God. 

Because really, how does anyone prove this?:
He wraps Himself in light
And darkness tries to hide
It trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice
My point is that God, as Christians see God, cannot be explained, but only experienced.  Unbelievers who come to have belief do so not because they worked it out in their head or were convinced by an argument; they do so because in some way or another they experienced God, and therefore know God to exist.

I feel for people who are trying to figure out if God is real through the means of science and logic and reason.  They will never find the answer this way.  If a God exists who is indeed creator and lord of all, it is ludicrous to believe that we can explain his existence in human terms.  Belief comes from accepting that which is offered, not by exploring for an answer and discovering it on one's own.  That is in fact why this song is so moving, because it does not attempt to explain God but only to describe his majesty and character, as that being who is so above us and beyond us, yet also so close to us, as to belie any attempt at expression aside from mere awe.  Really, how else do you approach this?:
Age to age, He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end
From Anselm to D'Souza, and so many in between, we too often have forgetten that God cannot be shared intellectually, only experientially.  So do you want someone to believe in God?  Help them experience him.  Be his ambassador on earth, and that will be more of a proof than all the books in the world.