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The notion of 'seeking God' can be found in multiple passages in the Bible:

Acts 17:26-27

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 2700 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us

Proverbs 8:17

I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Jeremiah 29:13

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Isaiah 55:6

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;

Deuteronomy 4:29

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

2 Chronicles 15:2

and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

Matthew 7:7-11

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him

Acts 17:27 is particularly interesting to me because it takes place in the context of the Apostle Paul addressing the Areopagus of Athens, proclaiming a universal invitation for all mankind to seek (and find) God. But the question in the title remains: what is the success criterion for the task of 'seeking God'?

Of course, one could simply say that the task of 'seeking God' could be considered successfully accomplished if God is actually found. In other words, the success criterion for seeking God is actually finding God. Well, although technically correct, this kind of simplistic answer doesn't actually answer the question to my taste because it simply pushes the problem to now having to determine whether or not God has been found. And the question remains, what does 'finding God' actually look like, and how can one know, epistemologically speaking, if this 'finding' has actually taken place, from a subjective point of view?

And digging deeper into what this 'finding' might actually look like, I foresee two general kinds of answers that people might offer:

  • Answers focusing on general revelation, apologetics, history, natural theology, science, and even sacred scripture. In other words, assessing the publicly accessible evidence intellectually, and rationally coming to the conclusion that God must exist. I foresee that some people might go down this route and claim that God can be 'found' rationally in this manner. On this view, seeking God may entail studying entire PhDs in philosophy and theology, spending years in the study of arguments and counter-arguments for/against God's existence from science, history, philosophy, etc. Finding God would then probably look like having some sort of 'aha' moment of realization after having weighed all the publicly accessible evidence. A possible downside to this approach is that there are many intellectuals who actually claim to have done all this with intellectual honesty and still failed to be convinced. Graham Oppy comes to mind as a notable example.
  • Answers that focus on 'finding God' in a more direct, private, experiential, and revelatory way, involving some kind of religious experience. The problem of this approach is that it sounds very much like Christian mysticism to me, which I know to be very controversial.

So it looks to me that it's either a long path of hard studying of arguments, without a guarantee of being eventually convinced, or a path of seeking revelatory experiences that is highly controversial. My specific questions therefore are:

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    Nice use of the table markdown feature 😊. Take heart, Mark. It is an excellent question, one that I struggle for a long time to find the answer. I also see you have done work to make it viable in C.SE to invite an as much objective answer as possible, even though it's about "success criteria" for someone to be experienced subjectively. Even if it ends up closed (community decision, nothing I can do about it except voting "leave open"), I hope you would find another venue (maybe The Upper Room) to ask this and gets the answer. I'm totally with you on this project. Dec 28, 2023 at 18:52
  • @GratefulDisciple Thank you for the supportive comment. It looks like the question has been found to be acceptable after all (someone already posted an answer). Since you already went through the same question for a long time, and gathering from what you said that you managed to find a satisfactory answer, would you like to post an answer of your own as well?
    – Mark
    Dec 28, 2023 at 23:12

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I have to wonder whether this question is based on one of two possibilities:

(1) The OP is only interested in an academic look at a theological idea, or,

(2) The OP may have tried to seek for the God of the Bible, but failed - otherwise the OP would know the answer.

If (1), no answer from those who claim to have successfully sought for God will suffice because a positive result does not depend on levels of academic or theological understanding. The 'search' requires entirely different approaches to succeed.

"Success" and "failure" was explained by king David to his son, Solomon, like this:

"Know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever." 1 Chronicles 29:9 A.V.

To search for God with a complete heart and willingness of mind will result in success. But, as God is not to be mocked, those whose search is insincere, perhaps with ulterior motives, will discover lostness.

In the time of Christ, he put it like this:

"He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him... If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14:21-23 A.V.

I make no comment regarding (2).

EDIT After my morning reading re. the Bible book of Hosea, I felt this quote pertained to the question. Although it speaks of the nation of Israel, the principles about seeking God apply equally to the whole body of believers, called by God's name today, and individuals (whether or not yet in that spiritual 'body'.) The verse being examined is Hosea 10:12, and as I'm quoting from the book, I use the author's chosen translation:

"Break up your hard ground. Surely it is time to seek Yahweh, until he comes and showers righteousness upon you.

He tells them that they must firmly take themselves in hand. They had been in wickedness and hardness [of heart] for many years. They were like hard soil but they need to break up the hardness of this ground. It would mean facing what they had become and resolving to look to God to break habits that had become entrenched in their national life,

He calls them to seek God ('Surely it is time to seek Yahweh'), and, on behalf of God, tells them what will happen if they do ('until he comes and showers righteousness upon you'). To seek God means to find out what his will is, to follow after the experience of his presence as the living God. If they will live in such a way, God will pour out on them the experiences and rewards of righteousness." Hosea, Michael Eaton, pp157-8, Christian Focus, 1996

The 'success criterion' in this Bible book requires repentance and seeking God to help turn from unrighteousness, then God's righteousness and mercy will be experienced, causing such a contrast in either group, or individual life, that it will be obvious to them that God has responded to their sincere seeking of him.

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    Straight to the heart of the matter. Laser-like focus. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 29, 2023 at 12:47
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When people find God, a change occurs in their life. It can be for good or for bad. I will quote examples from the Bible to explain.

Bad experience:

KJV Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord , that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord , neither will I let Israel go.

Pharaoh experienced God and it resulted in the destruction of Egypt. The Bible says:

KJV Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Each time he found himself facing the direct power of God, i.e. meeting God face to face, Pharaoh hardened his heart and it finally resulted in the death of the armies of Egypt at the Red sea.

Good Experience:

KJV Isaiah 1:16-18 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Sins are forgiven, character is transformed and you find yourself being born again. This is the Christian experience that Jesus talked about in John 3 to Nicodemus. In short our hearts are broken and we are born again.

We find this happening in the life of Isaiah as he directly narrates to us in the following portion:

KJV Isaiah 6:5-7 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Experience varies from person to person. Everyone may not have such a dramatic experience like Isaiah, but everyone who yields to God at this point will experience a transformation in their life. Those who resist will harden their own hearts.

Hope this helps!

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  • No living person on Earth (with the possible exception of Enoch) has seen God the Father face to face. Moses was allowed to see God's back, and his face shone. God Himself said, "[Y]ou cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." This was in old testament times. Pharoah certainly never met God "face to face". Dec 31, 2023 at 0:47
  • I am not talking about seeing God face to face. But experiencing God in our life. "Face to face" in the case of Pharaoh meant head on - he experienced God's power head on. I used it as an idiom not literally. Thanks for pointing it out.
    – One Face
    Dec 31, 2023 at 3:50

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