What should we think about when we think about God? Let’s talk about it on the Deeper Waters Podcast.
God. The word can evokes a number of attitudes and emotions. For some people, it means to mind a pristine holiness. They are filled with love and awe when they think about God. For another crowd, there is thought about the cosmic energy of the universe. They look within and think about what they see there. They seek to be one with the world around them. For yet another group, there can almost be a hatred. The thought of anything to do with God is automatically absurd and if this God exists, they’d rather go to Hell than be with Him.
Let’s be clear at the start of the discussion about God. The question matters. If you look at the question of God’s existence and think it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever to the nature of the world or how you view it, you’re not taking it seriously. This in fact is the problem with Bertrand Russell’s teapot illustration or with comparing God to unicorns, fairies, leprechauns, etc.
And if you think there is a God, knowing what He is like is extremely important as well. Is He a pantheistic concept that is all of us? Is He a distant deistic being who is off playing a round of cosmic golf while we toil away on this Earth? Is He Allah and is inspiring Muslims to do acts of terror all around the world? Or is He the one who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ?
C.S. Lewis in his “A Grief Observed” said in there that it wasn’t his fear that God did not exist in his grief. He was sure of the existence of the divine being. It was a worse fear for him. It was the fear of “He exists and this is what He’s really like!”
But why would the Apostles’ Creed start with belief in God? Isn’t that a given? Doesn’t everyone know Christians believe in God?
Well, no. Not really.
Okay. Okay. Maybe there is some postmodern stuff in our world today that allows you to have a definition of God and believe in Him and somehow still be an atheist, but surely the charge of atheism like that is new. (And no, I can’t even think of how someone would be able to pull off a claim like that, but in our postmodern age, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has or someone will.)
But no, the charge of atheism is in fact an old one. The early Christians were accused of being atheists.
The early church lived in a world where polytheism was the norm. In this world, everyone believed in multiple gods, with the exception being the Jews. Yet Christians show up on the scene and say “Not only are we not going to worship pagan gods, those gods don’t even exist.” This was a charge to not only the pantheon of the time, but to Caesar as well who was seen as a god. I agree with Crossan who says that Mark 1:1 which tells us about the beginning of the good news of Jesus, the Son of God, could be read as saying “In your face, Caesar.” This was a direct challenge since Caesars could have their own reigns described this way.
The Christians refused to buckle under pressure and let Jesus be included in a pantheon of gods. They were monotheists to the core. Now how that fits in with Jesus and the Trinity will be discussed later on in this look at the creed, so if that is your concern for now, hold on to it.
The God question then matters and always has. If you are a theist reading this, think about how much your worldview would change if you found God did not exist. If it wouldn’t make much of a difference to you, perhaps you should ask yourself if God makes much of a difference to you now.
On the other hand, if you are an atheist, what would it mean to you if you found undeniable proof that God existed? Would it seriously change your worldview? If it would not, then perhaps you are not taking the question seriously right now.
And if you are a theist, really think about what you are saying. Last week, my wife was watching the Science Channel with the “Are We Alone?” week on there discussing aliens. For you as a theist, the answer is “No. We are not alone.”
Depending on your view of theism, you also have to ask how it is that God has interacted with the world of if He has. Do you hold that miracles are possible? Do you hold that everything around you is existing because of the existence of this one being? Do you hold that this being entered the world in the person of Jesus and died on a cross and rose again somehow?
Now I realize some readers will say I have not presented an argument for theism. True. In this blog post, I have not, but that has been done elsewhere. I will point the reader to some looks I have given in other posts on my favorite arguments, the Thomistic arguments, those from the great theologian Thomas Aquinas.
Aquinas had five ways to demonstrate that God exists. The first can be found here, followed by the second, third, fourth, and fifth. In fact, you can also listen to a debate I did on the Razor Swift podcast on the First way of Aquinas here.
In closing, I just want my readers to think about the question of God and realize it matters. If you had to make a case for theism, could you do it? If you disagree with theism and had to make a case for atheism, could you do that?
And what difference would it make if either of you were wrong?