How can I know, if you really love me? Maybe you too now have Whitney Houston echoing in your mind as you read these words? But, it is a good question isn’t it? Here’s another good question: “Is it possible that I can know God in such a way that I know that what I know is truly knowable?!” It is a two-part question:
Q1. How can I know anything?
Part of the answer to this question depends on what kind of knowing we are talking about.
Consider these propositions:
In a vacuum, an apple and a feather will fall to the ground at the same velocity. How do I know this is true? Through systematic observation of repeated actions, aided by a study of Newton’s Universal Laws of Gravity, I can reach a conclusion about the effect of gravitational pull on an object.
Jersey was liberated from German Occupation on 9th May 1945. How do I know this is true? There were eyewitnesses who were there (my father was one of them), many of them are still alive, and others have written eyewitness accounts of what they saw and heard. Events in history are deemed to be true, if we can trust the accounts of those who witnessed them.
I love my wife. How do I know this is true? Here things become more personal. I know this is true, because I feel love for her, and want to spend my life with her. You may observe our relationship, and deduce that I love my wife, but ultimately the truth is known only to me (well, and, hopefully, my wife!)
Q2. How can I know God?
It depends on what kind of “knowing” you mean.
Scientific knowledge? Is it possible, scientifically, to prove that God exists? No, clearly not. However, science is not opposed to religion, despite the protestations of certain new atheists. Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, John Lennox, robustly defends the credibility of belief, not least among those in the scientific community. In God’s Undertaker, he recounts a 1996 experiment which asked 1,000 scientists whether they believed in a God who answered prayer, and, in personal immortality. 42% said “yes”; 41%, “no”; and 17% were “agnostic”. Of course, this survey does not prove God either way, but it does debunk the common perception that scientific minds will disbelieve God’s existence. For many scientists, as Johannes Kepler observed, the process of scientific observation, is merely “thinking God’s thoughts after him”. Scientific enquiry might suggest God’s existence, but it cannot prove it.
Historic knowledge? Can I know that God exists from an historical point of view? Well, for Christians the answer is found in the events we recently celebrated at Christmas: “The Word (John’s description of Jesus Christ) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son” (John 1:14). John goes on to assert that no one has ever seen God, but many, many, people saw Jesus, and by seeing Him, they came to believe in Him (John 1:18). At the end of his Gospel, John states that his disciples witnessed countless numbers of miracles performed by Jesus, but John recorded only a selection, so that his readers might “believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing [you] might have life in His name” (John 20:30f.).
So, you might say, historical enquiry – reading the source documents of Christianity, written by those who were around when God invaded earth – does indeed take you a long way on the discovery of knowing God.
But what about the third type of knowing?
Personal knowledge? Many in our culture are quite content to consider faith as a purely private, and personal, thing (so long as your beliefs don’t impinge upon anyone else). And, it is true: faith – to be true Christian faith – must have a personal dimension. Jesus summarised God’s requirements as “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Truly knowing God means knowing his love, and learning to love as he loves.
As this brief survey has suggested, you will discover that I truly believe that you can know God! And, also, that you can know that he truly loves you! Of course, it is knowing of the kind we have outlined. Often this begins with an investigation of the truth claims about Jesus, recorded in the historic books of the Bible, but then this must lead on to a personal knowledge of God, as Lord and Saviour.
Here at Christ Church, we take as our strap line, “Knowing Jesus, and making Jesus known”.
People often ask me, “What is your vision for Christ Church?” At the moment, I can think of nothing better to say than this: “Everything we do exists in order to make Jesus known afresh to a new generation of people living in Virginia Water and beyond; and, thereby also, to equip our members to make Jesus known: by what they say, and by how they live.”
This is enough to be getting on with! We would love to help everyone who reads this magazine to connect with the life of the church, as we seek to “know Jesus, and make Jesus known”. Turn up one Sunday. Or, join one of our courses – Christianity Explored or Alpha. But, whatever you do, make sure that you know what you know, and you know why you know it!