God as One Who is Personally Knowable
My mother was attracted to God because He was personally knowable. Having grown up in the Catholic Church all her life, she understood Who God was, and what He accomplished on the cross, but He always seemed like the mysterious, unknowable God. When she came to a clearer understanding of God, she was overwhelmed by how intensely personal He is. He does not simply want worshippers, but sons and daughters, and we each have the right to call Him not simply Lord but Father.
God as a Storyteller
For myself, I was drawn to God because of His story. As a writer, I view life through the lens of story. When I read of Christ on the cross, I see a love story that is unlike anything I could ever imagine. When I read Revelation, I see a war of epic proportions, that make The Lord of the Rings look like a nursery rhyme. I see plot twists that no reader could see coming, form and style that make the most sensitive poet seem like a clod, prophecies that make your spine tingle with anticipation. And I see that it’s real, and I have the privilege of being part of it. Wow! I get to live my own, unique adventure against the backdrop of an adventure that affects the entire universe.
The conversion of C. S. Lewis occurred on somewhat the same grounds. He did not want to be a Christian, but Christianity sang to him from every book that most accurately conveyed the “roughness and density” of real life, for the secular authors and stories lacked some quality of true life that the Christian authors possessed. One night, after a discussion with J. R. R. Tolkien about how various pagan mythologies actually contain nuggets of hidden Christian truth, Lewis passed from knowledge of God’s existence to acceptance of God’s offered forgiveness. God’s story, hidden in the world and even in pagan legends, had captured Lewis’ soul.
God revealed through Reason
In America, we believe in proof, in reason above experience, in science above personal faith. If God is God, let Him prove Himself. So God gives proof. Not only does He sow the natural world with evidence of a Designer, but He also provides scholarship that establishes His authority.
When Josh McDowell set out to disprove Christianity, he had no idea that God would ambush him in the evidence. The Bible was a myth, Josh thought, an elaborate hoax created by power-hungry men. But as he studied the horrific deaths of the disciples, Josh wondered: Who would die for something that they knew was a lie? Okay, putting that uncomfortable question aside, wasn’t the Bible untrustworthy and contradictory? Then Josh encountered proof that the best-known ancient works—such as The Iliad—possessed only a scrap of the manuscript evidence and historicity possessed by the Bible. In other words, the Bible is the best-preserved ancient text in the entire world. After years of research, Josh had to conclude that Christianity is unequivocally true.
Dr. Jay Wile, the writer of the Apologia science curriculum, became a Christian not because of history, but because of science. For a high school project, he selected to study the classic experiments that best proved the theory of evolution. What he discovered? The fruit fly experiment was no proof at all; one only arrived at the conclusion of macro-evolution by extrapolating the evidence in a highly unscientific manner. Other classic experiments revealed the same results. At this point, Wile was not a creationist, but he was not an evolutionist either. Later, he attended a debate between two scientists, one a creationist and one an evolutionist. The creationist said something he never forgot: “To consider yourself truly informed and scientific, you need to examine the evidence of both sides.” Wile already knew the evidence for evolution, and wasn’t impressed with it, so he began to examine the evidence for creation. That evidence led him ultimately to realize that there was, indeed, a personal designer of the universe.
What is the common thread in Josh McDowell’s story and Jay Wile’s story? Proof. Evidence. Reason. In a culture that demands proof, God leaves evidence for those who are willing to examine it for themselves.
God Revealed Through Visions
One of the most stunning realities—and the thing which prompted me to start writing about this topic today—is the realization that God appeals to Muslims entirely differently than He appeals to the Western world. Muslims are very experience-based. If Allah wills for something to be clear, he will give a sign or a vision.
This is what happened to Kamal Saleem. He came to the United States to wage “cultural jihad,” to infiltrate American society with Muslim ideology, with the purpose of eventually overthrowing the infidels. While carrying out his mission, Kamal had an automobile accident that, through a series of circumstances, brought him to the home of a Christian family. What Kamal saw of their Christianity blew his mind. “Allah, these people have a relationship with their God. These people, they cry out to their God and He answers them. Allah, if you are real, speak to me. I want to hear your voice.” Allah did not answer, but when Kamal decided to take his own life, to execute himself for the infidelity of his doubts—Jesus Christ spoke to him. “I heard a voice. The voice knew me by name.”
Faisal Malick tells a similar story. So does Nabeel Qureshi. Just this week, I read the story of the ISIS jihadist who turned from enjoying his killing of Christians to becoming a Christian himself. Why? Because he experienced a dream in which Jesus told him, “You are killing my people.” He read a Bible which was given personally to him by a Christian that he had killed, and he believed in Christ.
God Who IS All
Why does God answer the skeptical Americans with reason and the passionate Muslims with visions and dreams? Why does God woo me with the grandness of His story, reveal Himself to my mother as the knowable God, and comfort my sister as a Father comforts His daughter? Because He is not a God who is far off. He is a God who is very near, who touches at the point of our deepest desire and need.
I believe the apostle Paul was only following the path that God had already established when he said that he would become “all things to all men, that by all means he might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
To those who seek, God will answer, in a way that is intensely personal and powerful.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.