God Revealed through Others
We have seen that God values deep relationships. Since God appears to be all about relationship, it is to be expected that people throughout the ages have experienced relationship with God. I conclude:
We should learn from other people who have experienced God.
This raises an important issue: How do we tell whether someone has had a genuine encounter with God, or just some kind of deception or misunderstanding? Here are some guidelines I have found helpful:
- Look for consistency among many different people. Truth about God should not be dependent on a single person’s testimony. Everyone who truly experiences the one true God should have experiences and share truths that are similar, not contradictory.
- Consider the backgrounds of people. Is there something about their life that makes you think they understand spiritual truths better than others?
- Look for people who promote spiritual truths that don’t change with time. Science shows us that creation operates under unchanging physical laws. The same laws of physics and chemistry that were in operation long ago are still in operation today. They haven’t changed. From this we should expect that spiritual principles are also unchanging. People’s experiences with God and the spiritual realm should be consistent over time. Spiritual perspectives that change their beliefs with changing times are not likely to be closely in tune with unchanging spiritual truth.
- Look for people with spiritual truths that are in agreement with self-evident truth. The testimony of people with genuine encounters with the genuine God should not contradict what is known through creation.
- Do not rely on sources that are known to include false teaching. I find that all religions have at least some beliefs that are mostly true. Just because some things about a spiritual perspective are true does not make all of its teachings true. It is the beliefs that aren’t true that show a spiritual perspective to be false, not its beliefs that are true. If a spiritual perspective promotes some things that are clearly false, then don’t expect that perspective to lead you to ultimate truth.
- Do not rely on people associated with false prophecies. If a person or a religious group has made predictions about future events, did what was prophesied actually happen? This test is not practical with prophecies which still involve the future, since what has been predicted is not yet verifiable. However, this test can be effectively used to safely avoid many people and groups whose prophecies have clearly not come to pass.
Note, however, that a prophecy being accurate does not necessarily prove the validity of a prophet or religious group, since anyone could possibly be right with one or more lucky guesses. Logically speaking, it only takes one false prediction to prove a prophet to be false. But it takes many consistent accurate predictions to establish that a prophet is genuine.
Clearly, others have experienced God before us. Let’s aim to learn from their experiences.
For Further Reflection:
- Who are some people from whom you could learn something about God?
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