t 23, squeezed--suddenly, mercilessly--by life, I shook a bitter fist at the sky and screamed inside, God, if You?re there, if You exist, You have to reveal Yourself to me; give me a sign or I will never believe--never!
Not long after, I met a fellow who had my same name (Clifford Goldstein), who grew up in the same city I did (Miami Beach), who was living in the same kibbutz where I had lived in Israel months before, who occupied the same room I had been in when on that kibbutz, who slept in the same bed I had when there, who had--on the same bookshelf above the same bed--the same books I?d had there (only they were his books, not mine), who was a writer (I was a writer), and who had a blond Danish girlfriend named Tine (when I was on the kibbutz, I had a blond Danish girlfriend named Tine).
?You asked God for a sign,? someone said. ?What more do you want? The Lord?s calling you by name.?
My experience of meeting my double, however persuasive, was still just that, my experience--subjective, personal, not repeatable and not verifiable in a lab. But so what? Those modifiers could be applied to every love relationship. Are those relationships not, then, real?
Sure, the Lord touched me in a personal way, but that?s hardly the only reason I believe. God?s also given me objective and verifiable evidence for faith, evidence that?s not contingent upon personal experience alone.
Take the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, and 8. What broader, firmer, or more rational foundation for faith could we have than the large sweep of world history? The earth could be destroyed tomorrow, without a trace of its existence left. But there will have always once been a Babylon, a Media-Persia, a Greece, and a Rome (which shattered into the fractious nations of modern Europe)--and all in that precise order, too. What?s more, nothing can remove, or even alter, those facts. Experiences come and go, but the prophecies of Daniel remain, affirmed by a history that--secure in the unbreakable lock of the past--can never be changed. Foundations don?t get more solid than this.
Next there?s the constant and unrelenting witness from nature. Plumbing David Hume?s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), I was amazed to find Hume admitting that, perhaps, some ?internal unknown cause? was the reason for the ?most exquisite arrangement? found in creation. Supposedly the classic refutation of the design argument, all Hume?s work did was beg the question How did this ?internal unknown cause? get the ability to create the amazing design found in nature to begin with? Hume didn?t emasculate the design argument; he only pushed it back further, nothing more. Sure, creation isn?t irrefutable proof of the biblical Lord, but it?s still an incredibly powerful and rational argument for it--one so strong that, according to Paul, because of the witness from creation, those who reject God will be ?without excuse? (Rom. 1:20) on judgment day.
Then there?s the Ellen White corpus. Putting aside a million and one questions about the royal mess we?ve made in presenting her work, or two million and one questions about the exact nature of Mrs. White?s role, I still don?t know how anyone, rationally and logically looking at the objective evidence, the bulk of the writings themselves--placed against the background and witness of her life--could conclude anything other than that she had a prophetic gift.
Demonic possession? Insanity? Deception? Are any of these options a logical and rational explanation for someone who, among other things, described Pilate?s wife?s dream (The Desire of Ages, p. 732), depicted life on other planets (Early Writings, pp. 39, 40), and detailed Satan?s jealousy of Christ in heaven (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 17-23)? Just given the facts, however, none seems to be the best explanation. Instead, the prophetic gift does.
In short, besides the personal experience, I have powerful reasons to believe in God and in our message. And, given the objective nature of those reasons, so do you.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.