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Evidence, from Personal Experience,
for the Existence and Activity of God,
graciously provided
(I believe) by God :

 
by Craig Rusbult, PhD
 
This page explains WHY I think God has provided evidence for me, and WHY I think this evidence is sufficient for belief, for making life-decisions based on...
 

A Theistic Worldview:  A theist believes (unlike an atheist) that God exists, and (unlike a deist) that God actively “does things” in the world.  IF a theist really believes that God exists and is actively involved in their world, and IF their decisions/actions are consistent with their beliefs, THEN they will be using their theistic worldview (their view of the world as a place where God exists and is active) for living in the world.     {as part of their decisions/actions, should a theist pray?}

 

Evidence for My Theistic Worldview:  As explained in the page-title, I think God has graciously provided me with evidence for His existence-and-activity, and this evidence has become a solid foundation for my theistic worldview.  Why?  We can ask three (or more) major why-questions:

First, why has God provided the evidence for me?  God knows me well, and He knows that I'm “basically a scientist” in the ways I think, because in all areas of life I place a high value on the logical reality checks that are the foundation of scientific method.   Each of us does a scientific reality check whenever we ask, in science or everyday life, an important question:  How closely does “the way I think the world is” match “the way the world really is” when I observe reality?   I believe that God has graciously given me evidence-for-theism experiences during my journey on a road less traveled, for the purpose of persuading me that my observations of reality are a close match with a theistic view of the world, so I should believe that “God exists and is actively involved in my world.”  But the evidence isn't overwhelming, for me or others, so we can ask "Why isn't God more obvious?" if He wants us to believe in His existence & activity? {more about "Why...?"}

Second, why do I think the evidence given to me is sufficient to believe in the existence-and-activity of God?  Below you'll find my reports of evidence from personal experiences — mainly things that happened to me, plus reports from other people — during the early 1980s, before and after my conversion to Christianity (my decision to become a follower of Christ) in early 1983.  I have been persuaded by my experiences, but... do I expect you to be persuaded?  No.  Why not?   Because you have your own standards (different than mine) for evaluating the information you know, based on your own values & goals-for-life.   And also because my experiences are not your experiences;  this is important because even though I'm certain that I'm telling the truth, you don't know this;  it's just the way life is, with you (like me & other people) trusting your own first-hand experiences – because they happened to YOU – more than you trust reports of second-hand experiences from others, because their experiences happened to THEM (not YOU) so you have to trust that they are telling the truth about what happened, and we cannot fully trust.

Also, why does the typical absence of strong divine persuasion give us another reason (along with many others) to think that God won't cause “Eternal Misery in Hell” to happen?

 


 

Evidence from Personal Experiences

What you see below is some personal evidence (for God's existence-and-activity) from my own experiences in the early 1980s.

 

Minor Miracles:  I think the events described here were minor miracles.  They were minor (non-spectacular) miracles, so my response to each event was “wow” not “WOW”, although when all events are combined my “wow” is amplified, is much larger and more personally impressive.  And I think they were miracles if a miracle is defined as "an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature, and so is held to be supernatural in origin [as in] an act of God."  I like this definition (from American Heritage Dictionary) because its focus is how an event "appears" and whether a person defines it as a miraculous-appearing event or a natural-appearing event.  Although a theist should think “God is involved in ALL events, including those that appear natural and appear miraculous,” most people (including me) think a miraculous-appearing event is stronger “evidence” for God's activity in the world.     { I don't know why God has given some people more evidence than me – with major miracles – and others less. }

 

Different Kinds of Personal Evidence:  Interactions between Me and MachinesFortunate Timings of Machine BreakdownsArranged CoincidencesGetting IdeasSecond-Hand Experiences – but also Reasons to Doubt.

 

Interactions between Me and Machines

Before I made a decision, in January 1983, to “say yes to God” and become a born-again Christian, I read the Bible and listened to a Christian radio station in Seattle.  Once, while walking on the campus of UW with my portable transistor radio, without looking at the radio's tuning dial I turned it from another station (near the opposite end of the FM dial) while asking God to “help me find the station” and when I turned on the sound the radio was exactly tuned to the Christian station.  Later I tried this again, and again the dial "was exactly tuned to the Christian station."

It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie, partly for its artistic value (plot, dialogue, acting,...) but mainly for the message:  Each of us affects other people, and life is better when we affect others in a way that is beneficial for them.  The movie's climax (do you want to watch it?) occurs when George prays, "I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again."  After watching this movie one evening in mid-December 1982, I thought that God might want to show me something through this movie.  The 700 Club, a Christian TV show, was on at midnight, so while praying I closed my eyes and pressed the “time” setting on the alarm of my watch for awhile, then released it, and opened my eyes.  I watched the program and about halfway through it, while a guest was telling the story of his pre-Christian life, the alarm beeped and at exactly the same time the guest said "God, I want to live" in his prayer asking God to help him avoid suicide.  His prayer was answered and, it seemed to me, so was mine.

Shortly after becoming a Christian, I listened to ministry tapes from the library of Calvary Fellowship in Seattle (affiliated with Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa), and after listening to the concluding prayer of a tape that was especially meaningful for me, I thought “this prayer is worth listening to again” so I pressed Rewind and began doing something else (looking for things to take on a trip) and then I remembered the tape and thought “oops, it will be way past the beginning of the prayer by now.”  So I stopped the Rewind, pressed Play, and heard "Father,..." at the beginning of the prayer.  Then I tried it again, and the same thing happened.  But not always.  I checked this tape out of the library twice more during the next two years, and 8 times I tried the rewind-stop-play;  4 times this worked (with the tape stopping at the beginning of the prayer) but 4 times it didn't.  Why?  Of course this is speculation, but it seems that God is willing to provide personally customized special evidence (especially for stubborn “scientists” like me, who require evidence for faith) and He will do this sometimes, but not too often, and not always when we ask.

In the summer of 1985, I decided to pray for 90 minutes,* and after awhile I reached for the alarm clock (whose face, showing the time, was turned away from me) and when my finger touched the clock its alarm sounded.     {* I had never before prayed for this long at one time, and I think God was telling me “I'm reminding you that yes, I do exist, I am active in the world, and praying is a worthy investment of your valuable time.” }

 

These experiences (with my radio, watch, tape deck, clock) seemed to be God interacting with me in a way that was low-level mental, basically telling me “now” when I was turning a dial, pushing a button, or touching a clock.

Below, the interactions seemed to be none (with "Fortunate Timings...");  and higher-level mental (in "Getting Ideas") leading to thoughts I could express in words;  and none or low-level mental (in "Arranged Coincidences").

 

Fortunate Timings of Machine Breakdowns

The city of Seattle is filled with hills, and one of my common workouts was “bicycle wind sprints” by riding fast up a hill & coasting (much faster) down the hill, then riding up & coasting down, and so on.  Before 1983, one evening I was riding very slowly (on my way to make photocopies in the U District) when suddenly... I was on the ground.  The bike frame had broken, and I thought “gosh, I'm sure lucky” and I wondered “why did the frame break now, going 2 mph (miles per hour), instead of that afternoon at 30 mph when I was coasting downhill with the frame being jarred by bumps and potholes?”  Maybe I was just lucky, or maybe God was protecting me from being harmed.

Later, I was riding slowly at the bottom of UW's 17th Street Hill, preparing to ride up it on the way home, when suddenly... the bike stopped and I was thrown toward (but not over) the handlebars.  A bolt holding the back fender had broken, so this fender fell onto the back tire and immediately stopped its rotation.  Again I thought "gosh, I'm sure lucky" and wondered "why did the frame break now, going 2 mph, instead of earlier at 25 mph when I was coasting down this hill onto campus, with the fender being jiggled by bumps and potholes?"  Maybe I was just lucky, or maybe God was protecting me from harm.

[[ also, in my car the brake pedal "went to the floor without pressure" when the car was parked (instead of when I was pushing on it, needing to stop);  at the time I thought "wow, God is protecting me again" because I would expect the brake fluid to be "pushed out" while pushing on the brake, not when it was passively parked;  but... probably this has a physical explanation, with brake fluid leaking slowly during a period of time (and thus reaching zero while the car was parked) instead of being "pushed out" by pressure when I used the brake pedal ]]

 

Getting Ideas

During a 1980 car-caravan trip (with about 12 people) from Seattle to a national juggling convention in Fargo, at a night-stop in northern Yellowstone Park I prayed and thought “read John 4:18” but when I read this in my small Gideon's Bible it was nothing special, so I thought “well, that was nothing” and was disappointed.  But later in the evening, in a tourist-service cabin I found a gospel tract with a theme of “do not be afraid,” using 1 John 4:18 as its main verse.  Later that night, I moved my sleeping bag away from the group (to get away from their talking) and slept without fear.     {later, I re-read John 4:18 and realized that it described Jesus getting information from the Father through the Holy Spirit, in the same way that Christians can “be supplied with information” now... except that Jesus was better at this than “hearing it” than we typically are}

After my conversion in 1983, I prayed and thought God was mentally “telling me” that He wanted me to focus on the most important essentials-of-life, so later that night I prayed and thought “what I really need is more love” and also [without knowing what was on page 42] “I should look on page 42” of a booklet (a follow-up to The Four Spiritual Laws), and when I looked there, it said LOVE is the goal that all Christians should seek, as in The Two Great Commandments of Jesus.

 

Arranged Coincidences

Mark 8:34 — when Jesus said "if any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me" — was the theme of three sermons on the same Sunday in Summer 1984.  One sermon (a Youth With a Mission event for the Olympics) was attended by me, and another by two friends in San Diego, and a third by all of us at our local church, where they called attention to their “San Diego & Anaheim” coincidence, before they knew about my “YWAM & Anaheim” coincidence.   /   But... two of these sermons were at a Methodist Church, so these two (and maybe also YWAM?) might have been based on a lectionary saying “preach about this verse today,” so I try to find a Methodist Lectionary from Summer 1984, to test this theory claiming that the “coincidences” had a natural explanation.   /   Also (but belonging in a different “category” of evidence), that evening my friends prayed for a healing of my oncoming cold (that already was at a stage past any previous recovery for me) and the cold never happened, so... did God heal me?

Before and after 1984, beginning a long time ago and continuing until now, I remember many other “surprising coincidences” involving me.  For most of these, I don't remember the details, or they aren't worth describing here.  But I do remember often thinking “that was interesting” and “I wonder if...”

I remain persuaded that many of my “coincidence experiences” were arranged (were planned-and-actualized) by God, despite my knowledge of a psychological tendency for people to notice {and remember} surprising events (that we may label as arranged coincidences), while not noticing {and thus not remembering} the many un-surprising events that commonly occur.  But I think the apparent coincidences have been too frequent-and-surprising to be just random coincidences, instead I think God arranged many of them, probably many more than we realize.

 

Second-Hand Experiences

Many times, I've heard a person report an experience that they thought was evidence for God's activity in their life.  I have heard reports (in conversations & sermons, said by people I trusted) and have read reports (in books).  As a young Christian in 1983, for example, I read The Cross and the Switchblade (by David Wilkerson) and Is That Really You, God? - Hearing the Voice of God (by Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM, Youth With A Mission);  each book described many personal experiences that seemed to be (and the author claimed were) done by God, or arranged by God. 

More personally, in mid-1983 a friend from Calvary Fellowship told me that while he was extremely high on LSD and his trip was not going well, he prayed “God, please help me” and he was immediately freed from from the drug's effects;  he instantly became sober (re: the LSD) but extremely high (re: his feelings about God).

And I've heard reports of many miraculous healings.

 

Skeptisism, with Reasons to Doubt

I think most people have rational reasons for skeptical doubt, for saying "I'm not persuaded," for instead accepting theories that propose natural explanations.  Here are a few of the reasons for doubting, followed by a section asking "why isn't God more obvious?"

Your Experiences, First-Hand versus Second-Hand:  As acknowledged earlier, for all people (for me, you, them) our own experience is more important (is weighed more heavily, is considered more reliable,...) than the experiences of other people.  You place a higher value on your first-hand experience (observed directly by you) than your second-hand experience (observed by you when you hear/read a report from another person).

Scientific Documentation of Second-Hand Experience:  Most people consider a scientific report (as in medical documentation of a “miracle healing”, as in a report of a person's before-and-after condition) to be more reliable (more worthy of belief) than a report from a conversational report (that has not been observed-and-recorded by medical experts).

Counter-Evidences:  As described earlier, my tape-stopping "worked" sometimes, but didn't at other times.  But even though it wasn't 100%, the actual 50% (4 of 8) was much higher than would be expected based on natural process.   /   Something similar happened in my evidence-experience with my favorite movie.  Earlier in the evening, before The 700 Club, I listened to NightSounds (with Bill Pearce, a wise Christian host and virtuoso trombone player) and — because "I thought that God might want to show me something through this movie" — I consciously chose a time to make my watch alarm beep during the program to “see what would happen,” and what I heard was... nothing special.  But later it was very special.

Natural Explanations:  When a person claims "a supernatural event happened," one kind of natural explanation is that the person has been heavily influenced by a cognitive bias like the confirmation bias that is "the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses... when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way."   And there are other kinds of natural explanations for supernatural claims.   {iou - Later, I will describe some of these, and I will revise the final sentence, "And there are...", so it's more accurate.}

 

 

Why isn't God more obvious?

 

Why?  My web-page asking "Why isn't God more obvious?" begins with a SUMMARY:  God seems to prefer a balance of evidence, with reasons to believe and disbelieve, so a person's heart and will can freely (not coerced by overwhelming evidence) make the decision, and so [due to the uncertainty] we can develop a "living by faith" character with a trust in God serving as the foundation for all of our thoughts and actions in daily living.

The Evidence is Not-Irresistible and Not-Indisputable:  C.S. Lewis wrote, "the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use."

A Logical Argument against Eternal Misery in Hell:  A "balance of [not-indisputable] evidence" — leading to uncertainty about the existence & activities of God, who is choosing to be Resistable — can help believers by letting them improve their living-by-faith character.  But this uncertainty will hurt those who die without believing, IF during their afterlife God will therefore (because they died as unbelievers) make them remain in Hell forever, so they will have Eternal Misery.  When we combine a fact (that God does not use strong persuasion) with our faith (that God is good), we have a logical argument against Eternal Torment.     { more about why this argument is biblical & logical and how it supplements the many other reasons to reject a doctrine of divinely caused Eternal Torment }

 

I.O.U. – Soon, maybe in November, I will revise the rest of this green-box appendix.  It will be condensed and rearranged, with transitions-etc added to make it easier to understand, with coherent flow.

 

4 Kinds of Evidence:  God is gracious, and He provided enough evidence to persuade me (thinking as a scientist) that I should “say yes to God” and become a Christian.  How?  In my page asking "Why isn't God more obvious?", here is a brief summary:

    For me, all four sources [historical, scientific, personal, interpersonal] have provided strong reasons to believe.  For example, before becoming a Christian I had concluded — based on my study of the origin of life (it seems highly unlikely that natural process could produce life) and the many amazing life-allowing properties of the universe — that life and the universe probably had been designed and created by a designer/creator whose intelligence and power far exceeds our ability to comprehend.*  Also, God provided evidence (in many personal experiences) that He exists and is active in my life.  I remain a Christian because I'm confident that The Gospel of Jesus is true, and because I want the and life offered by God.
* But after writing this paragraph, I learned (and then examined carefully in 2010) how a fine-tuning argument — based on acknowledging the extreme improbability of having one universe with "the many amazing life-allowing properties of our universe" — can be rationally rejected, due to the possibility of "beating the odds for a life-allowing universe" IF we live in a multiverse that contains a huge number of universes.  This possibility is consistent with God not providing "indisputable" evidence;  instead God provides enough "reasons to believe" but not enough to prove, "so a person's heart and will can freely (not coerced by overwhelming evidence) make the decision" about whether they want to “say yes” and trust God with their life.

 

from my Overview-FAQ of Creation, Evolution, and Design,

5A. Does "natural" mean “it happened without God”?   Do natural events occur without God?  It's easy for people, including Christians, to assume this because natural process (normal-appearing process) is what we expect, so we tend to think it's just “the way things happen” and they happen without God.  But this is a wrong way to think, because the Bible teaches us that God designed and created natural process, and continually sustains its operation; and natural does not mean “without control” because God can guide natural process to produce a desired natural-appearing result instead of another natural-appearing result.  This theistic view of natural process... is a better worldview-perspective for everyday life, in our view of the world that we use for living in the world.  Christians believe that God knows us, cares for us, and is lovingly involved in our lives, that He can change our situations, guide our thoughts and actions, and He responds to prayer.  Usually all of this happens in ways that appear natural, yet God is actively involved.  We should pray for these natural-appearing divine actions and praise God for them, as we “live by faith” when we trust God in daily living.

 

Evidence is not Proof:  Even though the personal evidence has been persuasive (for me) it is not compelling:  others can claim that these four kinds of evidence, when combined, give them reasons to not believe.  I think there is no proof for (or against) the existence and activity of God.  But I'm not a religious agnostic because "despite the impossibility of proof, evidence (personal, interpersonal, historical, scientific) can affect our estimates for the plausibility of various worldviews," and even though "a moderate intellectual agnosticism is justified, a commitment agnosticism seems unwise.  I'm merely suggesting that we humbly recognize the limits of logical persuasion and the impossibility of proof, and see our world as an environment that permits free decisions and provides opportunities for living by faith in whatever worldview a person has decided to construct and accept."

 

A Typical Absence of Strong Persuasion:  If God had wanted everyone to be certain, most doubts would have been erased if the risen Jesus marched through downtown Jerusalem, showing everyone...  Why wasn't this done?  Why was the evidence merely impressive... instead of overwhelmingly decisive?  .....  And why doesn't God give every person a personally customized Damascus Road Experience (Acts 9:1-31) that would convince each of us, not just Paul, that there is a theistically active God?

Although it isn't stated directly in the Bible, God seems to prefer a balance of evidence:  there is enough reason to believe if we want to believe, but not enough to intellectually force belief against our will.  Instead of overpowering us with undeniable logic or mighty miracles until we grudgingly give up and give in, God wants us to want to come to Him.  With this balance there is authentic free will, and the choice is primarily made not by intellect, but by heart and will.*  A balance is also needed for developing the "living by faith" character so highly valued by God.  In a world where it may seem justifiable to be intellectually agnostic, God wants a non-agnostic faith, a total spiritual commitment, a true repentance followed by a complete trust in God that is manifested in all thoughts and actions of daily living.

* Here I'm ignoring the debate about biblical support for & against claims of Calvinists.  In this page I'm rejecting Calvinistic predestination, partly for pragmatic reasons because our goal should be to live effectively (as defined by God) by making wise decisions, and for doing this it seems useful to assume free will, to assume that our choices are real (that we can choose, and our choices do make a difference in what happens) so we are responsible for our decisions-and-actions.     {what happens depends on Human Actions + Divine Actions}

 

Life as Educational Drama

 

 

 

 

 


 

If you want to discuss any of these ideas,
you can contact me, <crusbult@wisc.edu> ;
Craig Rusbult, PhD - my life on a road less traveled
 
Page-URL is https://educationforproblemsolving.net/design-thinking/mc-prp.htm
Copyright © 1978-2019 by Craig Rusbult.  All Rights Reserved.
 
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