By Jerry Long, Minister of Pastoral Care
Whether a person is religious or not, everyone has a faith system by which he or she lives. All individuals have basic core beliefs which help both shape and direct their worldview. The most-foundational core belief is what he or she believes regarding whether God is or God isn’t. This foundational core belief will color and shape the lens through which they view, interpret, and respond to life’s circumstances more than any other core belief. Let me suggest some practical ways that principle works itself out in life.
Whether we believe God is or He isn’t will determine for us how we think and believe regarding how we got here.
If a person does not believe God exists, then he or she by default will believe we got here by some means other than God speaking the world into existence and forming the first man out of the dust of the earth He had created. Thus, the God-denier is left to explain not just how the world exists, but also why it exists at all. The God-denier has to account for such things as the existence of man’s conscience, the presence of such things as beauty, good, evil, love, and compassion, and why there is a God awareness in every culture that has been discovered.1 He has to account for all the order found throughout the universe that suggests a creative and intentional mind behind all we see. In contrast, for the ones who believe God is, they know by biblical revelation that we and the earth are here because God, who is self-existent, self-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present, created the world and us and put us here for a reason.
Whether God is or He isn’t will help us understand what our overall purpose for living is. If God isn’t, then we have no purpose.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, the insight of avowed atheist Bertrand Russell (1870-1972) is spot on when he said, “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”2 If God isn’t, any sense of purpose will be limited to that which we conjure up for ourselves. If God isn’t, there’s no such thing as a higher calling. If God isn’t, and therefore we got here by random selection, then any talk of us having purpose is meaningless. If God isn’t, then our main purpose is, in the words of the TV series Survivor, to do all we can to ”outwit, outlast, and outplay” everything and everybody else. In constrast, if God is, then we and everything in all of creation have purpose because He created us with purpose. That purpose is revealed in the Bible: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and body and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Whether God is or He isn’t will determine whether man has inherent value which must be protected and preserved.
If God isn’t, then mankind has no more inherent value than an Etruscan shrew (the smallest animal in the world), or that of the largest of all animals, the blue whale. If God isn’t, then mankind has no more value than the Wolffia globosa, the smallest plant in the world, or that of the largest plant in the world, the majestic Redwood. If God isn’t, then human life has no inherent value, and as a result can be abused and discarded at will. But if God is, then mankind has been created by Him and therefore has inherent value because he or she has been created in the image of God. That inherent value means every person is worthy of protection from the womb to the tomb.
Whether God is or God isn’t will determine whether we will be held accountable for our actions and behavior.
If God isn’t, we will not be held accountable beyond what our consciences cause us to experience, and also beyond the relational, legal, and practical consequences we face while living in community with others. However, if God is, then we will ultimately be held accountable by Him according to His righteous and holy nature.
Whether God is or God isn’t will determine what we believe about how we can make it successfully through life.
If God isn’t, then one way of looking at life is that we are simply human pinballs loaded by the birthing process into the pinball machine called life. Once put into play, the journey of life we experience is determined by where life’s bumpers send us, and how long life’s flippers called fate, random chance, or self-determinism, can keep us from dropping into the hole at the bottom of the machine. But if God is, then life is best lived seeking and experiencing a personal relationship with Him through His Son Jesus – a life empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Is God or is God not? Interestingly, the Bible never tries to prove God exists.3 It just assumes He does. That truth is revealed in the first four words of the Bible, “In the beginning God….” There is no attempt to prove His existence because His existence is self-evident. As Romans 1:19-20 (ESV) tells us, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made so that they are without excuse.” Said another way, to conclude that God isn’t, an individual will have to suppress a whole lot of evidence found in the world that He is.
Whether we believe God is or He isn’t, is not a choice you and I get to opt out on. He either is, or He isn’t. Remember, which you choose will greatly color how you view life and how you answer some really big life questions.
1 Andrew Wilson, Incomparable (Great Britain, 10 Publishing, 2021) p.24.
2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), p. 21 as cited by In Other Words…iows.net
3 Andrew Wilson, Incomparable (Great Britain, 10 Publishing, 2021) p.24.