A few weeks ago a friend of mine at church loaned me some audio tapes of a three part sermon by John MacArthur entitled "Getting to Know the Unknown God." This sermon series was recorded late 1973 so I am not sure if MacArthur still agrees with everything he said back then, but for the purposes of this post I will assume he does.
The sermon was centered around Acts 17 where Paul enters Athens and sees the altar to the unknown god. He then preaches a sermon declaring Jehovah to be the god that they did not know. John MacArthur's sermon is quite good. He is an interesting speaker. However, there were a few things he said that I take exception with.
MacArthur claims that the only purpose of humans is to know God. He says that people who do not know God have no purpose and no meaning and their lives are not worth living. These people, like Judas Iscariot, would have been better off to not have been born. That is a pretty bold statement. How can he so confidently state such a thing without knowing the inner person of every human on the face of the Earth? What does MacArthur mean when he says a person's life is meaningless and purposeless? Isn't the meaning and purpose of one's life something that is a part of one's own consciousness that can only be determined by each individual for his own self? I know and have seen many people that MacArthur would probably claim do not know God that believe they have much meaning and purpose in their lives. They know people and engage in activities that are very important to them. Other people love them and believe them to be essential elements of their own lives. But apparently this does not matter to MacArthur. For him, the only thing that conveys meaning and purpose onto a person's life is the knowledge of God.
MacArthur goes on to say that there are two types of people: those that know God and those that don't know God. Of the latter there are two groups: those that know they don't know God and those that don't know they don't know God. The latter group believe they know God, but in actuality they do not. In other words they are deceived.
So what does it take for a person to truly know God. According to MacArthur God can only be known through Jesus Christ. By studying about Jesus and coming to know him better, we can get to know God himself. This is based on John 14:6-8. So anyone who believes they know God through any other means than Jesus is deceived and really does not know God. The thing that has always interested me about such statements is that once a person admits that it is possible to believe something wrongly, they must admit that they themselves could be among that group. In other words, it could be that MacArthur himself is one of the deluded, thinking he knows the true God, but not knowing him in reality.
Another interesting aspect of MacArthur's sermon was that he quoted many times from the book of Jeremiah and other OT books where the writers describe the nature of Jehovah. But how could these OT writers know God? If the only way to truly know God is through the knowledge, teaching, and person of Jesus Christ, how could the OT writers have known anything about God? They knew nothing of Jesus Christ. They may have believed in a coming Messiah, but that was just general information, not a true knowledge of the actual person of Jesus. I say that if the only way to know God is to know Jesus, then we can just chunk the OT because those guys did not know Jesus.
I believe that we cannot with certainty even know whether there is a god or not, let alone know for sure what his attributes are. We all exist on a huge ball in space which is just an infinitesimal speck in the expanse of the cosmos. Humans have the ability to use their senses to assimilate information about the cosmos and draw conclusions via rational thought. However, when it comes to the ultimate questions of "How did the Universe get here?", "Where did we all come from?", and "What is my purpose for being here?", we are all still in the dark just like the thousands of generations that preceded us. This can be a hard pill to swallow, but it is one we must swallow nonetheless. Basically, every person must discover what has meaning and purpose to himself and go about achieving those things.