On Knowing God: Introduction

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KNOWING GOD IS THE most important relationship you will develop in your lifetime. Why? Knowing God or not knowing him will determine how you live today and tomorrow, and where you will spend eternity. Can you think of anything more critical?

What was it that drew your attention to pick up this book and begin reading? Was it the title? Or, perhaps it was the painting of God touching Adam’s hand in creation, painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel nearly 500 years ago. By picking up this book, you may have started a search for God, a God who has been waiting for you to reach out to him.

For nearly four years, Michelangelo designed, plastered and painted what God’s creation of the world looked like to him. His guidebook was the opening chapters of Genesis in the Old Testament. In the central position of the Sistine Chapel is the panel that represents God at the moment of creation of Adam, the first human. With just a touch, the Creator’s life passes from the hand of God to Adams’ hand.

That moment is a true metaphor for the time when God gives us the new life that New Testament writers call the second birth. As magnificent as is Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, it will eventually fade, crack and peal away. Not so with the new birth God has waiting for you.

If you stand beneath the ceiling that Michelangelo painted from his specially designed scaffold, you get a view of God’s activities in the creation of mankind and the world. His work also included Noah and the flood. It would seem that the artist understood that to touch God means to know that he is the Creator of the heavens and humankind.

The title, On Knowing and Talking With God immediately brings up some questions. The most apparent is, Who is God? Another would be, What does it mean to “know” God? Over history, many have claimed to know God while at the same time being tyrants and murderers. Did they truly know God or was that a cover up for their criminal behavior?

While not attempting to answer all your questions, the groundwork is laid out for you to get satisfactory answers. Without apology I have turned to the Bible as our guide. As we pursue defining God and what it means to know him, we will start with the creation story from Genesis. That is the beginning for humanity and introduces us to the Creator.

What we learn right away from Genesis is that God had a plan for the world and for humankind as well. Obstacles came up, while not fatal to his plan, brought pain and suffering into creation. Early on, God revealed himself as the God of second chances. His plan would not be stopped. The Creator, we learn later, is the Redeemer who will make a way so the plan can be fulfilled.

To this point, you may find yourself in general agreement with what you’re reading. On the other side of the coin we have the human response—what does it mean to know the Creator/Redeemer God? The Scriptures don’t leave us in the dark here, either. Early in our history, something happened that required fixing. A broken relationship with God needed to be restored. Mankind needed to be reconciled to God. So the Creator takes on another task—to be the Reconciler between God and humankind.

Just as God is not absent from the human scene, neither is mankind without responsibilities. As Adam participated in the creation of Eve (he gave up a rib), so we are called on to be part of God’s restoration plan. We will have more to say about this as we come to the end of our story.

An intriguing feature of Michelangelo’s painting of Adam’s creation is the background behind his depiction of God. Some time ago, a physician noticed that it is a side-view silhouette of the human brain. If you look carefully, you will see it, including the arteries that lead into the brain. Why would this artist use such a background?

I’ve asked people about the silhouette behind God and I have gotten a variety of answers. Perhaps Michelangelo was pointing to the wisdom of God. Maybe he was suggesting that if we use our brains, we would see God in creation. I don’t know, but it’s something to think over.

There is one final question that needs to be answered by me. What is the purpose of this book? A good friend of mine who read the manuscript for this book asked me to answer that question. Harvey Pine put the question like this: Who is your intended audience for this book? What do you want to accomplish with it? A true friend is one who gets you to analyze what you’re doing and why. I value his friendship.

Here is my desire for this book. I would like true believers who have questions about their faith to gain strength for what they believe. Secondly, there are many who are seeking after God who have not made contact with him in a way that transforms their living. This book is saying: Reach out and touch the hand of God and be reconciled to him. God has declared: The war is over! You can have peace with God.

Finally, there are some who think that one can’t believe in a creator and be scientific. Maybe Michelangelo’s painting is for you: The scientific mind will see God throughout creation. Be open to all those possibilities.

Don Parker Decker
San Gabriel, California