January 17, 2020

Cliff's Edge--If God Existed . . .

In the summer of 1979, just before my new birth (the pangs, though, were coming), I sat in the attic apartment in Utrecht, the Netherlands, of Siger van der Linde, one of the few friends who would eagerly enmesh himself in the metaphysical musings that hovered about me like my breath. Having recently had an experience that—unless one could believe in unbelievable coincidences—made me more open to God, or to some cosmic “central casting,” or at least to the notion that reality might be more tiered than what I had been taught in public school, I said to him: “If I thought that God existed, my life would never be the same again.”

“Not me,” Siger replied. “If I thought God existed, it would make no difference to me, at all.  I’ll meet Him in the end, and that’s that.”

 “Are you crazy?” I asked. “If God were real, what else matters?”

Even back then, unconverted and unregenerate I still figured that if a Creator God existed, then He would be (to pilfer a phrase that I didn’t know then and that comes from a theologian whose work I now detest)—our “ground of being.” That is, because this God would be the foundation, the source, the starting point of all creation, knowing who He was, what He was like, and what His designs on me were would, it seemed, be of paramount importance.

That is, if He existed. If He didn’t, then what?

An estimated 2 trillion galaxies (and counting) are spread out across space, itself a creation billions of light years wide and getting (we’re told, anyway) wider. How easy for humanity to step outside, look up, and feel crushed into nothingness and meaningless by the immensity that surrounds us. “Even as we survive and reproduce,” wrote Thomas Ligotti, “we know ourselves to be dying in a dark corner of infinity.”

I recently listened to lectures by a philosopher who argued for a godless cosmos like Ligotti’s. Our universe, he said, could have arisen solely out of a fluctuation in the quantum foam. Where did the quantum foam come from? No problem, he asserted, because “it’s nothing, just a mathematical probability field.” I’m not exactly sure what a “mathematical probability field” is, yet it’s not “nothing,” but rather some kind of equation, which means it no more created the universe than this “e=mc2” on your screen could level Hiroshima.

Besides, would not an eternally existing God, such as depicted in Scripture, rather than a “mathematical probability field,” be a more logical and rational explanation for the creation of the universe? Of course. Even so, that still leaves open the question about what this God, besides being powerful, was like, and what His designs on me were.

First, what this God is like.

Talking about Jesus, John said: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Anything that once didn’t exist but then came into existence (like the cosmos and the galaxies in it) did so only through Jesus. And this same Jesus, our Creator God, the “ground of our being,” offered Himself as a sacrifice, facing in His own person the punishment that we deserve so that we don’t have to face it ourselves. The God who created those 2 trillion (and counting) galaxies, as well as the billions-of-light-years-wide cosmos to put them in, humbled Himself “by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). That’s what God is like.

And His designs on me?

“And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25). “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). “‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before Me’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure’” (Isa. 66:22). “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Not too shabby, huh?

Forty years ago, in an attic in Utrecht, though sensing that God might have existed, I had no idea what He was like, or what His designs on me were.  Now I know both.

If only Siger would, too.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.