Can You Really Know God?

Is it possible to know God? Most people believe it is possible to know about God the way you know about any person, place, or thing. All it takes is a little research, such as reading a book about whatever it is you want to know about. So in the case of God, you could read the Bible. Or in the case of Allah, you could read the Qur’an. But what if you want to actually know God in the way you would know a spouse or a close friend?

Muslims take offense at the notion that a person can know God. To the Islamic mind, a human ability to know God would make God dependent on his creation. For this reason, Allah doesn’t reveal himself; he reveals his mashi’at (desires and wishes), but not himself. Since Muslims believe that people cannot know Allah, they don’t try.

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Before Amen: Q&A with Max Lucado

In Before Amen best-selling author Max Lucado joins readers on a journey to the very heart of biblical prayer, offering hope for doubts and confidence even for prayer wimps. Distilling prayers in the Bible down to one pocket-sized prayer, Max reminds readers that prayer is not a privilege for the pious nor the art of a chosen few. Prayer is simply a heartfelt conversation between God and his child.

Max took some time to answer a few questions about his new book and the nature of prayer.

Q: Your new book, Before Amen, gives readers a simple way to incorporate prayer into their everyday life. But it’s more than just creating a prayer wish list for God, it’s about learning how to experience a heart connection with God.
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Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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Does God Condone Human Sacrifices?

“Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the Land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (Genesis 22:1-2).

 

Difficulty: Does God condone human sacrifices?

 

Explanation: At the time of this event, Abraham’s pagan neighbors sacrificed their children to their gods. On the surface it appears that God used his authority over Abraham and commanded him to do something that violated God’s own standard of morality. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

 

First, it is clear in other passages of Scripture that God is opposed to human sacrifices. “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:21). Repeatedly he made it clear human sacrifices were forbidden (see Leviticus 20:23 and Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). It is actually clear from the text that God’s point is that he does not want child sacrifice. This is why the passage begins by saying that “God tested Abraham” (Genesis 22:1).
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Why Doesn't God Stop Suffering?

This world is full of suffering and pain, and God does allow it. And while we may understand to a point why God had to allow suffering, why doesn’t he end it now? Why has he allowed it to continue so long? That is a troubling question.

 

A perfect and holy God created a perfect world. He “looked over all he made, and he saw that it was excellent in every way” (Genesis 1:31 nlt). Yet not for long. Because of free will, humans had a choice of God’s way or their way. They chose their way, and sin and evil entered the world. The perfect paradise God had created was destroyed. And from that moment forward—multiplied thousands of years—hunger, disease, hatred, wars, and untold heartache have plagued the human race. It is true God has promised to redeem those who trust in his Son for salvation and to restore creation back to his original design. But why is God taking so long to correct the tragic mess humans have made of this world?
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Does a Loving God Send People to Hell?

Many people think it just doesn’t seem right that God would condemn some people to a fiery place of damnation. God is love, and eternally punishing people doesn’t quite fit with that, right? So how can a loving God send people to hell?

 

To begin, it would be helpful to understand where God is thought to be sending people. The majority of Americans believe in a place called hell. Many consider it a place of eternal punishment of “fire and brimstone”—like a fiery torture chamber. But is this what hell is—an eternal furnace of sorts where people are tortured forever? Just what is it?

 

Clarifying the  Words of Scripture

 

To understand the teaching of Scripture we must understand when words are used literally or figuratively. If we don’t, we can easily misunderstand the teaching. Jesus referred to hell as a place where there is fire, which normally produces light (Mark 9:48). At the same time he referred to it as a place of “outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13). It seems reasonable that these words are figurative. If a literal meaning were attached to them, darkness and light from fire would cancel each other out. Jesus often used metaphors in his teachings, and here we believe he was giving a word picture of the indescribable nature of hell.
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Is God Genocidal?

To commit genocide is to deliberately kill a large racial, political, or cultural group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. The word genocide is a combined Greek and Latin word meaning “race killing.”

The atrocities of Hitler and the Nazi army upon the Jewish people were genocide. The Nazis rounded up and murdered some 6 million Jews between 1938 and 1945. There were over 2 million genocidal killings of Cambodians by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army between 1975 and 1979. Over a period of 100 days in 1994 perhaps 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda were brutally murdered by militia of the Hutu tribe. And between 1992 and 1995 the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina committed “ethnic cleansing” by murdering over 200,000 Muslims in Bosnia. These are just a few examples of genocide humans have perpetrated on one another in recent history.

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If God Can’t Do Anything, Is He All-Powerful?

“Can God do anything?” I asked an audience of Christians at a recent apologetics conference. I gave my answer and offered an explanation. Apparently, my answer was not well received by everyone, as one man in the audience was so incensed that he stood up shaking his head in disgust. He turned for the exit and walked out of the auditorium, but not without glaring back at me one last time, continuing to shake his head in anger. So what did I say? No, God can't do anything.

Clearly the Bible affirms God’s power. Job 9:4 says, “His power is vast.” Psalm 24:8 refers to the Lord as “strong and mighty.” Isaiah 40:26 says that out of His “great power and mighty strength” God brought forth the universe. Don’t these passages indicate there is no limit to God’s power?

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Is God Violent?

Anyone reading the Old Testament will acknowledge that it describes
  a people who endure great tragedy and triumph, which includes
     many acts of violence. There are stories of treachery, terrorism, rape, murder, war, slaughter of the innocent, torture, enslavement, and mass killings. While the Bible documents this violent behavior, we can’t assume God always approves. But the question is, is he violent? Does he engage in violent acts?

 

Why Does God Commit Violence?

 

The short answer is yes. But unless we have a context for God’s violence, we risk misunderstanding his nature. He is merciful and loving (Psalm 103:8). He is holy and righteous (Psalm 145:17 and Revelation 3:7). He is also fair and just. “O Lord, you are righteous, and your decisions are fair. Your decrees are perfect; they are entirely worthy of our trust” (Psalm 119:137-138). “He is the Rock,” Scripture states, “his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
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Did God Appear in Bodily Form Before Jesus?

The Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building (Genesis 11:5).

 

>How could God “come down” to the earth prior to him taking on human form in the person of Jesus?

 

Explanation: Prior to the incarnation—God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus—he did in fact make his presence known. Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8 niv). God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 17:1 and Genesis 18:1), Jacob (Genesis 32:1), and Moses (Exodus 3:2).

 

These appearances or manifestations of God are called theophanies. It is when God makes himself tangible to the human senses, as when Job was able to hear God in the wind (   Job 38:1), or when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. But in a more restrictive sense God has “come down” and made himself visible in the form of a man, like he did with Abraham and Jacob. Some scholars believe certain appearances of God were the pre-incarnate Christ. Other possible pre-incarnate appearances include the meeting between Joshua and the “Commander of the Lord’s army” (   Joshua 5:13-15) and the fourth man “like a son of the gods” who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:23-25). But in any case God did make appearances in tangible form prior to the appearance of the God-man Jesus.
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