Posted by: Randall Niles | October 6, 2009

Encounters with God

Origin… Destiny… Meaning… Suffering… Purpose… Evolution… Design… Chance… Fate… Grace… Freedom… Justice… Judgment… Humanity… Hope… Eternity… God.

Powerful words, underlying profound questions, argued passionately for centuries.

Although the science is more progressive, the tools more technological, and the media more dramatic, the debate is still the same. Logic, reason, and rhetoric — evidence, experience, and emotion – the great thinkers in science, philosophy, and theology continually unpack the same basic quandaries of existence.

But when the dust settles on each century of apologetic skirmish, it seems one moment with God conquers all…

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 — 430) was 19-years-old when he read an essay by Cicero on “truth.” He spent the next 12 years pursuing his illusive foe, jumping from philosophy to philosophy, theology to theology, trying to intellectually reconcile seemingly irreconcilable tradeoffs between doctrine and experience. At the age of 31, Augustine had a one-time, supernatural experience, “as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart.” It was then that “all the shadows of doubt were dispelled” and he accepted God as the ultimate truth in his life.

Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225 – 1274) was the timeless apologist of his century. His Summa Theologica still stands as a pillar of theological thought – 38 treatises asking and answering over 10,000 questions across 3,120 separate subsections! Remarkably, after decades of written debate and discourse, Aquinas had a transformative (some would call “mystical”) experience in church that changed everything for him. He immediately ceased work on his Summa and nobody (not even the Roman Catholic Church) could get him to return to it. He simply declared, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value.”

Blaise Pascal (AD 1623 – 1662) was the brilliant scientist, mathematician, philosopher, and apologist of his era, debating the existence of God and other theological issues with the greatest minds in Europe. His logic, reason, and rhetoric are still the foundation of university courses to this day. Yet, it was Pascal’s personal encounter with God as he read by his fireplace one night that delivered the final apologetic for his life — you can’t know God through intellect alone. He later wrote, “The heart has its reasons; that reason knows not of.”

Wow, powerful stuff!

It seems a transformed life through an individual encounter with God must be regarded as the greatest apologetic evidence for His existence! Although these personal experiences mean nothing to the critical, cynical, or skeptical mind, they mean everything to those that experience them!

Just thinking,

Randall Niles

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