47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you,*you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
What convinces a person to believe in something?
For some people, only the miraculous persuades them to accept what they would otherwise not believe. For others, belief comes from the most mundane experiences.
I have believed in God for as long as I can remember, and I have never experienced the sense of doubt that so many people talk about. Also, when something terrible happens, it has never felt natural to blame God.
But how do I know that God exists? Why do I so willingly believe?
To be clear, I do not believe everything that various churches have taught me over the years. It is not the Christian system that I believe in. The only reason I follow the liturgical calendar and the major Christian holidays is because it is a familiar calendar to me, but I do not believe one must recognize the major Christian holidays to enter heaven. I do not believe that a church must look a certain way or that a church service must contain certain actions. I might enjoy a particular type of church service for its rituals, its familiarity, but I do not think any part of it is essential for my soul.
But I believe in God. How do I know that God exists? How do I know the sound of my mother’s voice? How do I know that my wife loves me? This sort of belief is almost impossible to explain, but I am forever trying.
To be more specific, I believe that the Jesus of the Gospels shows through His actions and His words the nature of God. One piece of evidence is that Jesus acts differently compared to a normal person. When a normal person is afraid, He is not. When a normal person gets angry and turns to violence, He does not. Also, the Jesus of the Gospels stresses love over the laws of His time and culture. These are vague clues, of course, but vague clues are all I can offer when I describe anyone. Based on the culmination of a few general observations, I sense that God exists.
When Nathaneal asks Jesus how He knows of him, the answer sounds pretty unexciting. “‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’” To Nathaneal, however, this simple answer is meaningful. Somehow he knows who Jesus is. I suspect if we can ask the man today how he knows that Jesus is the Son of God, he would not be able to answer with clear words. Instead he might shrug and ask, “How do you know your mother’s voice? How do you know that your spouse loves you? How do you know anyone?”
Still, the belief is undeniable.