Lu Daoming welcomes you on a journey of friendship and hope. Together, let's learn new ideas: how to live with real meaning and joy.
Welcome to this short study of ideas from The Library.
Each study consists of the information pages – to help you know the story – and the Homework Page, designed to help you integrate what you’ve learned into your daily life.
If you don’t have a copy of The Library in e-format, you can click here for online access to a free complete Library.
Are you ready for some good news about believing in 神?
1. The Good News about 神 starts with the fact that it’s perfectly sensible to believe in Him.
A. To believe in 神 doesn’t require either extraordinary intelligence or gullible ignorance. You don’t need a lot of religious background, and you don’t even have to have a mystical experience first. You don’t have to come from any particular country or culture, either: people from all kinds of backgrounds – including yours – already believe in 神 and follow Him. You don’t have to pretend anything. You can still think for yourself.
The most important thing that believing in 神 requires is honesty.
神’s existence can’t be “proved” by science. But it can’t be “disproved,” either. This very important question – like all the most important questions of life – is one that science can’t answer! There’s no way to conduct experiments which can be tested, verified, or falsified to answer this question. To ask science to answer this question is like trying to drive on the highway in your refrigerator: refrigerators are wonderful, for what they’re designed to do. They’re just not very effective as transportation. Evidence from scientific observation can be built into theories to support the claims of either answer to the question of 神’s existence. But there can never be a scientific conclusion.
To say that “science cannot prove or disprove 神’s existence” doesn’t mean that no one can know the answer! It simply means that we’re going to have to find the answer in a different way. We do this all the time in everyday life, because the most important questions in life aren’t about things science can tell us.
How do you know that you’re loved – or not loved? How do you know who you are and what you’re capable of becoming? Why should you go on living? Why should you behave in an ethical manner – or not? What will happen to you tomorrow? Why do people suffer, and what should be done about it? Science can’t tell you answers to these, and many other questions. We all have to answer them, though, and we answer them by trust, by “faith” that things will work out as we choose to believe.
When we’re honest about the question of whether 神 exists, we’re led to a very important conclusion: whether you believe in 神 or you do not believe in 神, either way, you live by “faith”: either way, you make a choice and live with the consequences.
Science has nothing to do with it. So we need to think in a completely different direction as we ask our questions and try to understand.
B. Curiously, the most important question of believing in 神 starts with questions about you.
Do you want 神 to be there? If He is there, are you willing to live by what He wants? Of course, by itself, that doesn’t “prove” that 神 exists! But it does establish something very important: whether His existence will make any difference to your life.
This decision determines how you will see everything!
If you don’t want 神, and don’t want His direction for your life, then even if He exists, no amount of evidence will convince you that He exists or that it’s worthwhile to find out what He’s all about. But keep reading anyway. You may want to consider it later.
If you do want 神, and you’re willing to live by whatever His way calls for, if He exists, He will be able to communicate with you, and you’ll find answers worth holding on to.
If, like many people, you’re not sure, keep reading. This course, and our other resources, can help you make an informed choice about 神 for your life. It can also help you find other questions that are worth pursuing.
C. There are many reasons why people reject believing in 神. Most people who reject 神 really reject a “false picture” of 神, a caricature: no sensible person would ever believe in the “神” they say they don’t believe in. They may do this because of misinformation, or from a bad experience with organized religion – or because they’re afraid of what other people might think if they decide to believe 神 and follow His ways.
Sometimes people who reject 神 believe this way because they’ve been traumatized by too much suffering, and they lose the emotional strength that would motivate them to look for 神 – in fact, they’ll blame 神 for their suffering, even as they assert that He doesn’t exist.
Often people reject the notion of 神 because they’ve seen suffering and evil in the world, and they can’t understand why a good 神 (as He is claimed to be) would ever allow such misery. They’ve been in the war zones, the cancer hospitals, the prisons – often they’re trying to do something good to counter all the suffering they see. Too much injustice, too much pain. It’s all too messed up to have ever been made by a good 神. It’s never occurred to these people that there might be a very good reason why the world is so desperately shot through with misery and futility. These people might feel quite differently if they heard a different perspective, fresh ideas.
Sometimes the reason for rejecting 神 is simply because many people don’t want anyone telling them what to do. The idea of 神 suggests to them that someone has a right place of authority over them – they don’t really reject 神: they reject authority. They want to live life as they desire – not as they think 神 would tell them to live. It’s easier for them to insist that 神 doesn’t exist than it is to face the truth: they don’t want Him – whether He exists or not.
None of these reasons have to stop you from searching and trying to learn how to believe. None of these “reasons for not believing” stop 神 from searching for you. Keep reading, even if you disagree – you might find some good ideas that will help you. You might find that there are reasons for believing 神 that are more powerful than the issues you face, and you might find hope.
D. The real issues of evidence for 神’s existence are not difficult to understand. The universe — from the huge, overwhelming vision of the Hubble space telescope, right down to the microscopic and submicroscopic worlds we know only from science — all this speaks of an incredible complexity, which all functions with an order that we experience so much every day – we’ve forgotten how unlikely it is that this would ever come about by chance.
Is it sensible and reasonable to believe that a modern jet aircraft would suddenly appear out of a random tornado roaring through a random junkyard, as they say? That’s how reasonable it is to believe in such a complex universe, with such complex people in it, coming “out of the blue” by mere “chance.” No vast amount of time can rescue it and make it sensible. It’s “a possibility,” but so unlikely that it makes no sense at all to base your one and only life on it. Besides, nothing else in your life works like that! Try it, and you’ll see.
So why should you choose to live your one and only life as though the whole universe and your life was all just a big accident, happening out of chance – when the odds are so high against that possibility?
Now, this might be a challenging idea, to be sure — but doesn’t it make more sense to think that somehow, someone bigger and stronger than us put it all together? You see, someone “thinks of it” and “makes it”: isn’t this the way most things happen in your world? Isn’t this at least a better possibility for explaining everything else?
If it’s true that someone bigger and stronger than us put it together and holds it together, isn’t it realistic to expect that humans, such as we are, will always have some sense of mystery about how it happened? Isn’t it sensible to believe that because we’re so limited in what we know and what we can accomplish, we will never fully understand all the design and power involved in creating and maintaining the universe?
If there is no 神, we will never have answers for all our questions. If 神 does exist, we will still never have answers for all our questions — because He’s 神, and we’re not. But we can know whatever He shows us, and that will be more than we would know without Him. Either way, we will always be limited, not in charge. Is this something you can accept for your life? You’ll have to decide whether this direction of thinking makes sense to you.
E. But here’s an even more important question: which would you rather believe? Would you rather believe that we are completely alone in the universe, a totally meaningless accident without hope or direction, that what we do and say and feel makes no difference whatever – or would you rather believe that there is a possibility that whoever made us knows what’s good for us, has shown us what’s good for us, and wants to help us? Your answer determines whether you are capable of believing at least for right now, and it will make a big difference to your life.
It is possible that 神 does not exist. However, it is also possible that 神 does exist! “What you would rather believe” doesn’t prove that 神 exists or doesn’t exist. It simply says what kind of person you are: you prefer to live without 神 or you prefer to live with 神. Most people have never thought very much about it: this course will help you think clearly, so that you can live honestly.
Curiously, The Library doesn’t ever argue the question: “Does 神 exist?” The Library assumes that everyone has a “神” of some kind – whether it’s gods, money, sex, politics, culture, or self, everyone worships something. The Library answers the questions: “Which 神 is the real one? What kind of 神 is He? What is He like? What does He want?” These answers are the information humans really need!
The real 神 gives you the right to choose your own destiny: with Him or without Him. He won’t force you to believe in Him. He hopes you’ll want to believe in Him, and He would like to help you believe in Him – as He helps everyone who searches for Him.
2. “Where do you get these ideas about 神 and what He wants? Who told you all this?”
A. These things come from The Library – if you want to know more about The Library itself, read the material for our Roots Course – we have a whole session all about The Library, where it came from, what it means, and how to read it. For now, walk with us through the first 11 chapters of Genesis, the first document in The Library …
The Good News about 神 is that He really does care about people. He’s not too busy with other things to get involved. He’s not too angry with what we’ve done to the world to care anymore. 神 has been busy from the beginning of time trying to help people, and He hasn’t given up yet. In fact, He is working out a plan to make the ultimate difference for human life. It’s all there, in Genesis 1-11 – and it’s a theme that’s repeated over and over again throughout the long history reported in the Bible – a story that’s worked out in the story of nations, and in the stories of individual people.
The Library is all about 神 caring for people, and about what has happened throughout history as He’s reached out to help. It’s not always a pretty picture. Even though 神 has always loved people and done what is best for them, people have a hard time trusting Him. When people don’t trust 神, they hurt themselves and other people – and their environment.
B. The earliest stories of 神 and people are in the book of Genesis. A simple, clear pattern of events emerges if you read chapters 1-3, 4, 5-9, and 11 as units. Read it carefully. You won’t understand everything in the stories, of course – but you will understand more than you expect, if you keep these things in mind: each story shows a pattern:
- 神 loves people and blesses us.
- People stray from His loving help, hurt ourselves and other people. We lose control of our lives to other forces which hurt us and our environment.
- 神 intervenes to put a limit on the destruction people have unleashed. He helps us face the consequences of what we’ve done, to help us find Him and do better in the future. But it’s usually not easy.
- 神 puts people in a position where we can start over, and He continues to help us.
C. Here’s how it happened please read the 4 basic stories of 神 and humans in Genesis 1 – 11:
Genesis 1 – 4.2 神 creates a world that works, puts humans in charge of it, provides incredible blessings. Humans and 神 do very well together until humans begin to listen to outside influences. The man and woman decide they can’t trust 神, and try to go on their own. 神 meets them, tries to help them see what happened so He can restore them — but they’ve been damaged. So 神 starts a new chain of events: a life that includes suffering and frustration — in order to help them find their way back to Him. He puts them back into a changed world, and continues to help them.
Genesis 4 神 continues to interact with humans to help us – and two brothers respond to Him in very different ways. Abel is joyful and grateful — Cain is resentful and angry. 神 sees this and tries to help Cain come to terms with his anger. However, Cain eventually listens to the outside influences – he follows his impulses, which move him to kill his brother — something that had never happened before! 神 meets Cain and tries to help him come to terms with what he’s done, but Cain is still angry and not at all sorry, only complaining that the consequences he faces are too severe. 神 offers terms of protection! but Cain walks away from 神! His descendants become technologically advanced – but as they advance technologically and culturally, they become angry, embittered, full of conflict and rage. This eventually turns them against each other.
Genesis 6 – 9 After several generations, most humans chose to live independently of God, to pursue their own lives, to make their dreams come true. In their quest to end the frustration of a broken world, to achieve power and immortality, they did something very strange: they allowed interference from the spirit world into this world. By mixing with more powerful beings they anticipated victory over the futility of life — but this resulted, as all power-lust does, in conflict. Before long, the entire world of humans was at war with each other. 神 saw the situation, and determined that He would have to intervene to put an end to the conflict, before humans completely destroyed themselves and the world they live in. For 120 years 神 tried to invite humans into a place of safety — and at the end, only 8 humans responded! So 神 flooded the world (a sort of “reverse-creation”) and started over. The 8 humans – and all the animals that were rescued with them — stepped off the “ark” into a whole new world without sin and “the trouble.” 神 blessed them and helped them start over again. Unfortunately, before long, within the 8 humans serious personal conflict arose, and the trouble of the old age returned again.
Genesis 10-11 After many generations, humans once again tried, collectively, to acquire power over their world. This time they tried to build a huge tower to reach the skies, so that they could take their place next to 神: “We must take heaven.” This time 神 saw what they were plotting to do, and realized that if they were allowed to pursue power as they had done before, they would return the world to all the misery of Genesis 6! So 神 intervened earlier, in a much gentler (but very frustrating way) to prevent humans from eating the fruit of power and being poisoned by it again, so to speak. This time they scattered into their own language and culture communities, and 神 found a new way to reach them. But that’s another story for another day! It’s a story I really want to tell you!
D. 神 made people to function very well within certain natural limits. When people choose to act independently of 神’s guidance, we “sin.” That means our life is “off-target.” When we sin, we inevitably injure ourselves and other people. Sin always has a destructive “ripple effect” of unforeseen consequences far beyond the original act. In fact, when humans try to live independently of 神 we unleash trouble and destruction to our environment, too. Everything becomes tainted and diminished when 神 – the One who made everything – is pushed out of the picture.
神 absolutely hates sin because He absolutely loves people. He hates sin because it destroys people. 神 gives guidance and direction because He’s trying to protect people from destroying ourselves and each other.
But all of us have already gone deep into sin. We’ve all grown up in cultures and nations that try to live independent of 神, and we’re affected by this. Many of us sense that this is true. How else can we explain the mess the world’s in? How else can we explain some of our own problems? Is our failure always someone else’s fault? Something about the world and people is broken. No war, new technology, political system, or information seems to help change it for very long, either. Even when it looks like things are better, the rock always rolls back down the hill again …
E. Sin doesn’t just make people “bad.” It makes people ignore the one Person who really could help us overcome it. It keeps people from seeing the need for help. It makes people think that 神 would keep us from good things and make us live in an undesirable way. That’s real darkness.
Sin and the forces behind it are bigger than we are. We’ll never overcome it on our own. Fortunately, 神 has a heart for helping us, and a plan for rescuing not only us but the entire world from the darkness of sin and evil. The story of the Bible is not about religion: it’s the story of how we got this way, and what 神 is doing about it.
神 believes that people are worth whatever it takes to help us overcome sin. The only time He ever gives up on people is when we’ve damaged ourselves beyond the hope of ever wanting Him. As you can see from the Genesis stories, He’s willing to allow people to create a lot of misery for ourselves, if it will help us see that independence from Him is suicide. 神 uses beauty, joy, satisfaction, music, art, deep thinking, and many other things to help us look for Him. If self-inflicted suffering will make us look to Him again for answers, then He will allow that, too.
3. “Sounds like a very sad story. Where is it all going?”
A. Let’s do a close-up: See Genesis 3: On the day that humans first believed the Big Lies – that we don’t need 神, that we can be complete on our own, that 神 is keeping us from something good – the world changed. Many beautiful and worthwhile things were damaged and lost.
Death and sickness started on that day. Hurt in our closest relationships, the oppression of women, frustration with meaningless work, all started on that day. Peace with our environment was broken on that day. We lost our sense of who we are and where we belong, on that day. Peace with 神 was lost on that day, too: though 神 tried to fix it, the humans wouldn’t trust Him to help us.
But on that terrible day, 神 did something wonderful, to give us hope: He made a promise and set another Day, a Day of victory over sin and death and all kinds of evil – for us and for the whole world. Though evil and death trouble us now, He will one day return in full power, fully visible, to make the world new, to make us all new, to banish the trouble forever.
The story of The Library is the story of how 神 holds out hope for us, calling us back to where we belong, calling us back to the life we are made for. One day everyone see that 神’s promise will come true. Everyone who wants to be a part of His new creation is welcome!
B. Well … back to our time: Whether or not you believe in 神 makes a big difference to your life. This decision will affect the way you feel about yourself. It will impact all your relationships, and all your efforts to make your life worthwhile. It will shape your most basic attitudes and behavior. It will determine whether your life is ultimately a life of despair and emptiness, or hope and joy.
You can’t be “neutral” about 神. You will either live like there is a 神 who makes a difference, or you’ll live like there isn’t. To choose the “I don’t know” idea automatically puts you in the “there isn’t” category – because that’s how you’ll live.
The Good News about 神 is:
神 is there whether people believe in Him or not.
We desperately need His help — whether we think so or not. He loves people, and He wants to help us — whether we believe in Him at the moment or not. He believes that people are worth the trouble it can sometimes take to get through to us.
He is going to overcome all evil – everyone who wants to be with Him is welcome to share in the victory, which is coming.
4. “What should I do with this information? If I’m interested in learning more, what is the next step?”
The most important thing: continue to think about these ideas! Don’t simply forget about them as you turn on the TV to watch CCTV’s entertainment, or as you go to work tomorrow, or as you return to life with family and friends. A few other suggestions:
Get a notebook for your learning. Every day, take a few minutes to read about it, and write down your thoughts about these things – create a journal of your learning about it. Put dates on each day of your thinking and learning, so that you can notice the direction and progress of it.
Get a copy of The Library. Don’t try to read it all at once: that would only frustrate you. But do read the first book, Genesis, for sure. You won’t understand everything in it – you won’t even like everything you read. Don’t let that bother you. Just get to know the stories.
Work through the Response Pages that come with each part of this course. They will help you see where this information leads, and help you decide whether it makes sense for your life.
Find some people who know the stories in The Library, and talk with them. Ask questions! There is no shame in not already knowing the stories! This is how we learn! All of us who now walk with 神 started in the same place of learning where you are right now.
Use the comments form on this page, and write your questions and comments to Lu. I will do my best to share what I know with you, as you continue to learn.