So do we look for God or does God look for us? Who initiates?
Like many questions there is some “both-and” to this one.
As a Christian do I believe that people should be truth seekers and God seekers? By all means.
Part of why I said that “We don’t find God as much as he finds us” is on philosophical grounds, stories from the Bible, and Christian theology.
What are we and how can we know anything? If we are products of blind, unguided, chaotic evolution what have we been equipped to know, to be and to do?
If you’re a materialist for whom there is no God and we are simply products of unguided evolutionary forces then the world we experience is something created for us by our minds to give us a competitive advantage. See this piece from the Weekly Standard
Contemporary philosophers have a name for the way you and I see the world, a world filled with other people, with colors and sounds, sights and sensations, things that are good and things that are bad and things that are very good indeed: ourselves, who are able, more or less, to make our own way through life, by our own lights. Philosophers call this common view the “manifest image.” Daniel Dennett pointed out at the conference that modern science, at least since the revelations of Darwin, has been piling up proof that the manifest image is not really accurate in any scientific sense. Rather science—this vast interlocking combine of genetics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, particle physics—tells us that the components of the manifest image are illusory.
Color, for instance: That azalea outside the window may look red to you, but in reality it has no color at all. The red comes from certain properties of the azalea that absorb some kinds of light and reflect other kinds of light, which are then received by the eye and transformed in our brains into a subjective experience of red. And sounds, too: Complex vibrations in the air are soundless in reality, but our ears are able to turn the vibrations into a car alarm or a cat’s meow or, worse, the voice of Mariah Carey. These capacities of the human organism are evolutionary adaptations. Everything about human beings, by definition, is an evolutionary adaptation. Our sense that the colors and sounds exist “out there” and not merely in our brain is a convenient illusion that long ago increased the survival chances of our species. Powered by Darwin, modern science proceeds, in Dennett’s phrase, as a “universal corrosive,” destroying illusions all the way up and all the way down, dismantling our feelings of freedom and separate selfhood, our morals and beliefs, a mother’s love and a patient’s prayer: All in reality are just “molecules in motion.”
The most famous, most succinct, and most pitiless summary of the manifest image’s fraudulence was written nearly 20 years ago by the geneticist Francis Crick: “ ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.”
This is one of the issues that Alvin Plantinga engages the new Atheists on, as does atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel in his book Mind and Cosmos.
If the materialist conception of the universe is true then we as a species are not equipped to know truth. We are equipped to out-compete and survive as a species, so all that we know is what helps us survive. This isn’t necessarily truth. We might discover some truth as a byproduct but even that would be conditioned for survival.
A Christian would say that God has given us the capacity to seek after truth and know the truth so that we can in fact know God and enter into some sort of relationship with this God. Christians also assert that our capacity for this knowledge and this relationship have been corrupted by our biases, our fears, our selfishness, etc.
If there is a God that wants to relate to us he moves first not only in terms of giving us the capacity to seek, know and relate, but also the desire for this.
The irony of the materialist position is that there is no “ought” to know the truth, or to know God, or anything else for that matter. There isn’t even an “ought” for survival, it is simply part of the package evolution has given us.
2. The Bible
Again and again in response to the story of human rebellion and the destruction that follows from it, God comes looking for us. God finds Noah and commands him to build the Ark. God finds Abraham and says “I will bless you.” Abraham does almost everything to sabotage God’s plan for him but God keeps bailing him out and working on him. Same with Jacob. Same with Judah and Joseph. God grabs a very reluctant Moses and invites him to do what Moses doesn’t want to do. God does this with Israel too. I’ve got lots of material on my blog about this in the Bible stories of Genesis
Again and again in the Bible God interrupts us from our little plans and dreams and imposes himself into our midst. Yes, he asks us to seek him, but in many cases God initiates the conversation and often won’t let the people go.
3. Christian theology
My particular branch of Christian theology emphasizes the fact that we are biased, self-centered and rebellious. We act as Darwinists describe in seeking our own survival and our own salvation from what threatens us. We live natural by the rule “my well-being even at the expense of my neighbor.”
Christian theology asserts that this drive in us is so deep it makes enemies of our neighbors and enemies of God. God moves towards us by his Spirit to begin to soften our hearts to his relational polarity “your well-being at my expense”. Some of this comes as what theology calls “common grace”. We are not as bad or evil as we could be. Another aspect is God’s spirit working in our hearts to soften us, to open us up to the idea that there is a God of love at the center of this universe and that he invites us into his way of living.
A classis of Christian theology on this is Augustine’s confessions. He wrote passionately about how God was guiding his life long before he was conscious of God.