After church, my nine-and-a-half-year-old daughter asked me, “How do we know that God is real?” She was concerned that the Bible was written so long ago and that they probably only started off with a few copies and it was probably written in Hebrew, so how could be know that God is real?
I mentioned briefly that the Bible wasn’t written all at once and that the whole Bible wasn’t written in Hebrew, but I didn’t think that was the source of her questioning. I was right.
I told her I could think of three ways of knowing that God is real. (BTW, her formulation was interesting and clearly distinguished her from her brother who stated, “God and the Bible and all of that is a bunch of crap.”) First, some people know that God is real because they learned it from their families. Then we talked about how people used to learn everything from their families, like which mushrooms to eat, when to water the crops, and how to hunt. We decided that used to be more convincing than it is know.
Second, some people know God is real because they know that everything in the Bible is true and the Bible tells of God. She giggled at this one. “How do you know the Bible is true?” I agreed it wasn’t very convincing to me.
Then I said we needed to ask why we believe the car is real. We talked about how we perceive things for a while. At one point she said, “Well, I know that I am real.” We talked a little Descartes. Then I asked her if love was real. She decided it was, even though we cannot see, taste, hear, touch or smell love.
So, the third reason to know that God is real is to perceive God. I told her that when I was underway in the presence of the vast ocean I felt God’s presence. I explained that the first time I held her in my arms I could feel God. I told her when I preached and when I prayed and when I served people at Paz de Cristo I felt God.
She asked, “What if you have never felt God?” I told her that I guessed she would have to rely on the first reason, namely that her family knew that God exists. I suggested that maybe it would be sort of a tentative belief like she believes that others things are real because we’ve told her so.
Kids are cool.