January 3, 2019

Fascinating, Thrilling, Hopeful, Yet Fearful

If God existed, then nothing mattered more than knowing who He was.

Clifford Goldstein

In 1979 I had experiences that, besides showing me how narrow and inadequate the atheist materialism of my youth was, opened me up to spiritual realities.  That is, if being open to “spiritual realities” meant talking a lot about God, or at least the idea of God.

During one of these conversations in Utrecht, Holland, I told a friend, Siger, that if I thought God existed, my life would radically change.

“Really?” he answered. “If God exists, I’ll meet Him in the end or whatever. But until then, who cares?”

“Who cares?” I said. “Are you kidding? If I thought God existed, nothing—nothing—could be the same again!”


Why? Because if God existed, then He (She, It, They, whatever) would be the foundation and the ground of all reality. This meant everything that ever had been, or is now, or would ever be would have originated in Him—including me and my life, which would make me obligated to Him. If God existed, then nothing mattered to me more than knowing who He was. What was He like? Why did He create the world? What was the purpose of life? Did He care about me?

If God existed, then nothing mattered more than knowing who He was.

I knew next to nothing about the Bible, and the little I thought I knew turned out wrong. But common sense told me that if a Creator existed, and that my life originated in Him, then I should seek to know who this God was and what He wanted from me. Because this attitude seemed so reasonable, I found Siger’s insouciance stunning.

Having imbibed from birth the premise that we are just “blobs of organized mud,” I found the thought of God’s existence fascinating, thrilling, hopeful, yet fearful. Fascinating and thrilling because it meant that reality was so much deeper, grander, and richer than what any textbook ever dared teach me. Hopeful because perhaps there was a meaning and purpose, after all, to the painful madness that suffused the human condition. Yet fearful, too, because, well, if God existed, then I would probably have to answer to Him, an idea that I intuited might not necessarily work in my favor.

Anyway, before long I came not only to know that God existed, but to know Him personally, all thanks to Jesus Christ, in whom “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Yes, God’s existence was fascinating and thrilling because it made the universe much deeper and richer than I had ever imagined. Even amid the painful madness of the human condition, yes, God’s existence offered meaning and purpose to our lives. And God’s existence meant that yes, I would have to answer to Him for my deeds, but thanks to the gospel it’s no longer such a fearful prospect.

Even in my ignorance in Utrecht, I was right about one thing: if I knew that God existed, nothing could ever be the same.

Nothing was.

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.