The Christian faith, as in life, has lots of questions. And many of those questions are difficult to answer, leaving many of us simply responding, “IDK” (I Don’t Know). The questions we’re specifically dealing with in this study are:
- How can I know that God exists?
- Can I know the Bible is true?
- Can God be good and allow suffering?
And when it comes to both sharing our faith with others and with being certain about things in our own, we need to be able to at least talk about these questions. That’s why it’s important for us to discuss these question in a safe place. Even if we still wrestle exactly how to answer some of these tough questions, at least we’ll be more equipped with how to approach these conversations.
I also make sure that I share with the youth that it’s okay to ask these questions. Part of developing a strong faith involves asking and wrestling with life’s hard questions. So not only is it okay to struggle and ask these kinds of questions, I even encourage it!
For each week in this three-week study series, we dive deeper into each of these three big questions. These are some of the notes and highlights from these conversations…
Week 1: “How can I know that God exists?”
1. There is no perfect ARGUMENT, but there are CLUES.
No matter how smart you are, no matter how good of a debater you are, and no matter how powerful you are with words, you will probably never debate someone into believing that God exists. Even though there is no perfect argument that will convince anyone of the existence of God, there are some clues and conversation topics that are great to bring up with people who don’t believe in God.
Look at Romans 1:18–20…
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Paul says in verse 20 that God’s qualities and characteristics are seen evidently in the world.
2. These CLUES show us that a world without God makes LITTLE sense.
Clue #1: The Clue of Beginning – I think God exists because something or someone had to create the universe, because the universe cannot create the universe.
Now, this argument won’t turn a skeptic into a Christian, because the skeptic will ask this question back: “Where did God come from then?” And as Christians, we believe God is not a created being, but He has existed for eternity. We believe that He is not tied down to the laws of nature like everything else in our universe. We believe that God doesn’t need our universe to exist.
Clue #2: The Clue of Order – I think God exists because of the precise order of the universe.
A scientist named Francis Collins said this:
“If any of those constants was off by even one part in a million, or in some cases, by ‘one part in a million’ million, the universe could not have actually come to the point where we see it. Matter would not have been able to coalesce, there would be no galaxy, stars, planets, or people.”
Clue #3: The Clue of Morality – I think God exists because within all of us is a belief in moral right and wrong.
How can a chemical explosion create moral laws? How can a piece of matter with no sense of morality or thoughts or purpose create morality and thoughts and purpose? It doesn’t make much sense.
Clue #4: The Clue of Beauty – I think God exists because we long for things like love, beauty, and feelings.
If we came from a collection of accidental atoms, then there is no purpose for our existence. And if there is no purpose for our existence, then beauty and love and feelings don’t really exist. They are just chemical reactions. In order for us to love and see beauty and have feelings, we must come from something that has love, beauty, and feelings.
3. I know God exists because of SIN, FORGIVENESS, and the longing for HEAVEN.
Look at Romans 10:9:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I think sin itself is proof that God exists. If God doesn’t exist, then why do I feel bad about certain things I do? If God doesn’t exist, why is sin such a big deal? If there is no heaven or hell, then who cares how people act?
I think in all people, there is an acknowledgment that sin exists—and also for many, a need to be forgiven or made right. If there is no God, then why do we have a desire to seek forgiveness and fix what is broken?
And also, people have a longing for a life after death. We have a longing for heaven—for hope and security after our lives end here.
Week 2: “Can I know the Bible is true?”
1. The PEOPLE who witnessed the events recorded.
One of the major differences between Christianity and other religions is the eyewitnesses.
With other religions, most of the time, it involved one person and no eyewitnesses. For example, Islam was founded by Mohammed, and Mohammed claimed to have a conversation with God in a cave while he was alone.
I want to focus mostly on Jesus because He is the focal point of our religion. And if He wasn’t who the Bible says He is, then our religion is a lie.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
2 Peter 1:16–18
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
2. The Historical Accuracy That is Recorded
The Bible was written over 1,500 years. And the Bible records historical events that occurred during those years—and other historical documents and books confirm these events.
For example, in the book of Joshua, there is a cool story about how the people of Israel walked around a city named Jericho. And God told them to walk around the city seven times, and then the walls will fall down. Pretty crazy story. And most people think that it is a myth and a made-up tale.
But from 1907 to 1958, four archaeologists began to discover that there were 15-foot walls that suddenly crumbled thousands of years ago. And they began to find out that the walls fell outward and not inward. Normally, when a city is attacked, the walls fall inward. But not for Jericho—when they walked around seven times, God caused the walls to come down like an earthquake. And archaeology is proving that the biblical account is accurate.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.
This was written around 700 BC. And it was predicting that God’s Son would be born of a virgin. That is a shocking prophecy. And it came true.
In Micah 5:2, written around 750 BC, it says this:
But you Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
Out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
In the book of Matthew, we see in the first two chapters that a woman named Mary, who was a virgin gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. And if you read it, you will see that eyewitnesses are mentioned.
3. The Claims of Jesus About the Bible
Do not think that I come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
4. The Character of God and His Words
Look at 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
Here, it says that all of the Bible is God-breathed. This means that each word of the Bible is from God. God breathed His words of truth into human minds, and they wrote them down.
Ask: If the Bible is what it says it is, then why would I go a day without it?
Week 3: “Can God be good and allow suffering?
“We have mostly been taught that if something is perfect, there is no evil or badness or deformity in it. We see perfection and goodness as polar opposites of bad and evil. We think that they cannot coexist. In the Christian faith, we believe confidently that God is perfect and good. And yet, our world—the world God is in control of—is full of suffering and evil. To most of us, this doesn’t make much sense.
These ideas that we’re discussing today are logical and they make sense, but they are not a clear-cut formula like 2+2=4. Life is messier than that.
1. God is WISER and more PERFECT than any human can comprehend.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Here, God is reminding humankind that we will never fully figure Him out. This may seem like a cop-out answer, but part of following God is joining in the mystery. God is so much wiser and perfect than I could ever comprehend.
Many may doubt that God exists because you can’t logically figure everything about Him out. But just because something doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t make it untrue. Let me ask you this: would you worship a God that you had fully figured out?
2. Our understanding of GOOD and EVIL is different than God’s.
When we say “good and evil,” what do we mean exactly? What is good? What is evil?
At the end of the story of Joseph, he is reunited with his brothers. These brothers were the ones who launched him into years of slavery and suffering, all because of jealousy. They treated him with evil, and he suffered because of it. And the brothers, when they saw him, begged him for forgiveness. And here is what he said:
Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Now, God does not sit in heaven and laugh and smile when we suffer. But with every instance of suffering and evil, God is working it out for good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
In verse 28, it says that all things work together for good—our suffering, our hunger, our sickness, our tragedies, all the bad stuff. God says it works together for good.
Our definition of good is different than God’s. Our definition of good is “what will make me happy and bring me pleasure.”
But that is not what “good” means in the eyes of God. In verse 29, He tells us what the ultimate kind of good is: to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s standard of good is something that will cause us to look more like Jesus.
3. Suffering makes us more like CHRIST and causes us to see our NEED for God.
If life was all happy and good, why would you need God? One of the reasons why God may allow evil and suffering is because it causes us to reach out to God. We begin to depend on and trust in God’s rescue. If there were no suffering or evil, then we wouldn’t need rescuing. We wouldn’t need God.
We also need to acknowledge that it is because of our sin and decision-making that our world is full of suffering and evil. Our perfect world became a messy world full of sickness, drama, death, bitterness, and conflict. And we are responsible.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Because of our sin, our rebellion, we have missed out on the world and life that God perfectly designed for us. And with rebellion comes the messiness of our world.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.
1 Peter 3:18
We are sinners. We are responsible for the tragedies in this world. We made this broken earth. But God took responsibility on Himself. God came to us and became a suffering servant for us. So now, we have a purpose for suffering, to look like Christ, and one day we will enter Heaven and be fully removed from suffering.
And that suffering, that trial, that evil, should cause you to look to Christ.
Final Thoughts on the IDK Bible Study
This study has helped us dive deep into some big questions. And instead of dealing with them with an IDK (I Don’t Know) response, we all have much better grounding in our thoughts on these topics. This gives us more confidence in what we believe and deepens our faith in God.
In particular, having a better idea of how to approach these questions helps in two ways…
- It gives us something to hold on to when we’re struggling in our faith.
- It helps us when we have conversations with unbelievers (or others wrestling with these questions).
Overall, this has been a great and very worthwhile study, and it’s been great to see the youth really leaning into these conversations. I pray the discussions continue to sink in over time, strengthening their faith for the rest of their lives as they continue to wrestle with hard questions about life and God.