Knowing About God vs Knowing God
When I was in college, I spent time studying everything from atheism to Hinduism to the faith of the Latter Day Saints. I attended the services, got the holy texts, and read the scholars, mostly because I was curious—in fact, I still study as much as I can today. My most memorable experience during my college exploration was when a fat biker in leathers fell asleep on me while I was at a Primordial Dzogchen Buddhist ceremony (Dzogchen is a form of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism), but I didn’t study so much because I wanted to collect silly experiences.
So why did I spend so much time learning about religions or the lack of religion? Why do I still? Is it just because I’m curious like a cat (that’s why my friends call me Whiskers) that I invested and continue to invest the time?
Nope! It’s for a couple of different reasons:
- 1.) The truth doesn’t fear examination.
- 2.) Knowing about God isn’t the same as knowing God, but knowing about Him is a necessary part of knowing Him.
The first statement is self-evident, so let me explain the second.
There is a great difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Knowing about God is primarily a matter of information, whereas knowing God involves a first-hand personal experience and involvement.
To illustrate: suppose that you are a single, young man and I had a crystal ball into which I could look and reveal to you what the woman you will someday marry is like. I could tell you what she looks like, her likes and dislikes, her strengths, her weaknesses, her talents, her intellectual abilities, and her spiritual maturity. You would know all about her. But could you truly say that you know her? I don’t think so at all. There is no personal relationship between you and her. In fact, you might even say upon hearing my revelation, “Wow, I can’t wait to get to know her!”
There is a huge difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing that person. Through the crystal ball you might know all about her, but then someday she will walk into your life and you’ll get to really know her on a personal level.
It is exactly the same way with God. We can know a lot about God, and yet not really know him well or at all.
So we can know about someone without knowing them, but if we know someone, we also have to know about them. And that brings me to why I’ve been so curious: if I’m in a relationship with my Creator, God, don’t I need to know about Him, so that I can know Him?
Improving Your Relationship with God through Questions
Our relationships with God are the most important ones in our lives. Have we gotten to know Him? Imagine being married and not really knowing your spouse at all—in fact, imagine if the only thing you knew about your spouse was what others told you about them. Would that be healthy?
How about our relationship with God? What if it’s based completely on what our families, pastors, preachers, or priests tell us? Does that seem as if it’s a great marriage?
In order to have a good relationship, one needs to put in the time in getting to know the other person. And because God has a Mind, just as you have a mind, there is only one “truth.” For example, I LOVE hiking. If you were to say that you know Lucas, and Lucas doesn’t like hiking, then you don’t know the truth about me, or you know a different Lucas altogether. Either way, it’s a sign that our relationship could be improved.
So would you like to be in a better relationship with God? Improve your knowledge of Him? Here are some things that were either surprising for me to learn about God, or which surprised some of my friends. I have presented them as “what I or others were told” vs “what God says about Himself.” Are any surprising to you?
Calling people father?
- Priests, pastors, or preachers should be called “reverend” or “father.”
- “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” —Matthew 23
—My reflections: God reserves terms of reverence for Himself. God still lets us call our parents our mothers and fathers; He’s talking about giving religious reverence to people other than Himself.
Only some people are priests?
- Only specially-ordained people are priests in the church. In church, there are the priests and then there are the people.
- “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” —1 Peter 2:9
—My reflections: God says that all Christians are now priests and that we are all also the people. There is no longer a distinction as there used to be in the Old Covenant. This has to do with worship, too.
Church leaders shouldn’t get married?
- Some people, such as preachers or priests, should not get married.
- “But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.” —1 Corinthians 7:2
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage…” —1 Timothy 4:1-3
—My reflections: Getting married is a great way to learn about Christ’s marriage to the church, which God describes in Ephesians. It’s not surprising that God calls forbidding marriage a “doctrine of demons.” Think about all of the child sexual abuse that goes on in places where this teaching happens.
Kids inherit the sins of their fathers?
- People are born with the sins of their fathers.
- “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor shall the father bear the guilt of the son.” —Ezekiel 18:20
—My reflections: This made me think a lot, so I read the Bible and wrote a summary called, “Little Children and Sin: A Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
Baptism is for babies, or maybe for no one?
- Babies need to be baptized. (Or no one needs to be baptized.)
- “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins.” —Acts 2:38
—My reflections: People must first repent of sin and then be baptized. Babies are born sinless and don’t have developed brains, so they can’t repent, and there is no sin to forgive. Babies don’t need to be baptized. However, when talking to adults, God said through His servant that “everyone” should be baptized to have their sins forgiven.
Jesus isn’t special?
- Jesus is not God.
- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” —John 1
—My reflections: The writers of the Bible understood God to be a plural Entity, and that Jesus was God. It’s so important that I wrote an extra post here: Three Looks at the Trinity.
Mary, queen of heaven?
- Mary is the queen of heaven and a co-redeemer.
- “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” —Matthew 12:46-50
“And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!’ But He said, ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'” —Luke 11:27-28
—My reflections: Jesus made it clear that Mary was not any more special than anyone else who believed and kept God’s word.
Does grandma become an angel when she dies?
- People become angels when they die.
- “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.” —Hebrews 11:22-23
—My reflections: Angels and men are both created beings, but angels are not humans, and humans do not become angels. I put together a bunch of information on angels here, which I hope you’ll like: A Study of Angels.
What I Learned
The above were some common questions that I had when studying about religion. Pop-quiz: should you believe everything I posted? Congrats if you said, “No, Lucas, I’m going to check to make sure that you’re correct!”
When I’m teaching in a congregation, I try to make sure that I’m teaching the truth. When I’m picking a congregation to assemble with, I want to make sure that they’re teaching the truth. Just as I don’t want someone claiming to know me and getting all the details about me wrong, God wants us to know about him, and to know Him. Would you spend time with people who claimed that everything your spouse said about themselves was incorrect? Probably not. It’s important that we spend time with people who are teaching the truth about God!
I’m constantly learning new things from others about God, and trying to help others improve their own lives. I hope that we can all develop a deeper understanding of who God is, and thus improve our relationships with Him, leading to a better world for us all.