Can We Know God by Hugging a Tree?

How can someone know God? There are many these days that claim they do, but the ways they claim to know Him do not harmonize with what the Bible teaches on the subject. I have met people in the past who claim they know who God is by going out into nature. Can a person role in the grass and hug a tree to really know God? Will frolicking through the woods enter us into a saving relationship with the Heavenly Father? When they leave the woods and brush the grass and tree bark off their clothes, can they say they really know God any better than before? The Bible teaches that we can know that God exist from nature (Rom. 1:20), but it does not say we can know anything about his personality, characteristics, or will for mankind from nature alone. I have also met people who claim to know God based on an emotional experience they had. They usually claim to know God by the feelings they have deep down in their hearts. The Bible teaches us the many dangers of trusting those inner most feelings and emotions as a spiritual guide in life. Many a good sincere person has been led down the wrong path by trusting the feelings of his or her own heart (Prov. 16:25, Jer. 10:23).
Lets ask ourselves a question that will help us understand this. How do you know that you have a soul and spirit? Stop reading for a moment and really think about that question. The only way that anyone knows they have a spirit is because God told us that we do in the Bible. If it weren’t for God revealing to us that we have a spirit, none of us would have ever known that we do. God is a spirit (John 4:24), and the only way we can know anything about him is through the reading and study of the Bible. Faith is believing that something exist in which we cannot see with our own eyes. If we want to have faith in God, we must read the divine revelation He gave to us about Himself. Paul said, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God chose to reveal himself to us through His Word. We may be able to look at the wonders of nature and realize there must be a creator, but we must have divine revelation to really know anything about Him or His will.
The apostle Paul elaborated on this subject in 1st Corinthians chapter two. Paul said, “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:11-13). Paul is stating that God has revealed to man what He wants us to know about Him by the giving of the Holy Spirit. God gave of His spirit to the apostles and inspired men of the 1st century so they could write down and record what God wanted us to know about Him. It is through these divinely inspired writings that we now have the Bible. God revealed to mankind what He wanted us to know about Him, His nature, and His will. The only way to know who God is, is to know His inspired Word. John said we can know that we know God when we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3). I guess we could try get to know God better by hugging a tree, but it would be much more productive to study the Bible, not to mention less embarrassing. -Ed

Tough Text – Psalms 51 & 58

There are passages in the Bible which are sometimes used as “proof texts” to support the many false doctrines that have infected the Christian faith. Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 are probably two of the most well known of these passages. David wrote the fifty first psalm after being confronted and rebuked by the prophet Nathan for the sin that he had committed with Bathsheba. David wrote “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David also wrote the fifty eighth Psalm where he was speaking of the wicked of the world. He wrote, “the wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). Both of these passages are often used as “proof” that all people are born totally depraved sinners, and are in a lost spiritual condition from the moment they leave their mothers womb.
This false belief is part of the foundational teaching of John Calvin and his “TULIP” doctrine. Calvin believed that all men inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin and are thereby totally depraved from the moment of their birth. The actual name of the doctrine is “total hereditary depravity”. Proponents of Calvinism often refer to the two above passages in support of their belief.
If these two verses teach what the supporters of Calvinism state they teach, then we have a huge problem. That would mean the Bible contradicts itself. The Bible clearly teaches that a person does not inherit the sin (or the guilt of sin) from their father or mother (Deut. 24:16). The Bible teaches, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Eze. 18:20). We inherited the consequences of Adam’s sin, but not the guilt of it. So what do the two verses in Psalms refer too?
In Psalm 51:5, David was stating that he was born into an environment or atmosphere of sin. He was not saying that he was born guilty of sin. That again would contradict other scriptures. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Consider what the Jews said on Pentecost. They said, “and how is it we hear, each in our own language in which we were born” (Acts 2:8). Those Jews were born in a certain area where a certain language was spoken, but that does not mean they were able to speak that language the very minute they were born does it? In the same sense we can see how David was conceived and then born into an environment of sin, but not that he was born a sinner.
To understand Psalm 58:3, one must simply dig deep into the verse and common sense will bring forth the true meaning. The verse says the “wicked are estranged from the womb”, but it then says they go astray as soon as they are born. Well they have to be in a safe condition to begin with before they can “go astray”. A person cannot go astray unless they are in an upright condition to go astray from. Also notice that David says “they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies”. We must ask how a newborn baby could “speak” a lie and also how a newborn baby would even know what a lie is? All babies are born in a safe saved position, and are not accountable until they sin while understanding what sin is (Deut. 1:39). -Ed