When someone gives up on God

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How do your respond to people who say they have given up on God?

The year before I was born a famous preacher answered this question. He wrote: “Many of us have tried to give up God, and have never quite succeeded. We say there is no God and then we go out under the stars at night, and wonder.” He then began to cite some pertinent and practical examples of how it would truly be a “strange universe without God.”

First, he wrote:

A vast, law-abiding universe this, to have come by accident, as though a man should throw a font of type upon the floor and by chance it should arrange itself into a play of Shakespeare.

A non-believer is asking us to believe in a stranger-than-strange universe without God.

I am convinced it is stranger than fiction to believe this universe “just happened” without rhyme or reason. Secular science was born and nurtured in a home/culture of faith: Faith in God the Creator, God the Designer of a world capable of birthing and sustaining life, God the Law-Giver for nature as well as human beings.

Timothy Keller observes:

There is something about nature that is much more striking and inexplicable than its design. All scientific, inductive reasoning is based on the assumption of the regularity (the ‘laws’) of nature, that water will boil tomorrow under the identical conditions of today.

He cites David Hume and Bertrand Russell “as good secular men … troubled by the fact that we haven’t got the slightest idea of why nature-regularity is happening now, and moreover we haven’t the slightest rational justification for assuming it will continue tomorrow” – apart from God. Modern science grew up within a Judeo-Christian worldview that believed God created and now sustains a law-abiding creation.

Second, the famous preacher of yesteryear mentions the self-interested materialist who is a non-believer in Christ and His utterly and ultimate self-sacrificing love. Then the materialist gets married, becomes a father, and finds himself feeling “the purest love that human beings know, the love of parents for a little child.” Where does such love originate? Again the non-believer is faced with a strange universe without God.

 The trouble with utopia

We may crave all that materialism offers, but who among us believes that having and using things satisfies us? Who among us does not have a yearning to be loved and to love? Is not joy, as opposed to transient happy moments, what we need first and foremost? Yet, is it not as elusive as a butterfly outside of loving relationships, relationships that are so often poisoned and polluted by our own insidious selfishness which the Bible calls sin?

The heart of liberalism and idealism craves a loving utopia, but every utopia crashes on the harsh realities of human selfishness. Without God turning us rightside up and inside out, how do we experience and express the love so demonstrated in the life, death, resurrection, and ongoing presence of Jesus Christ in His people like Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Billy Graham?

Third, our preacher focuses on the encounter with death when we lose a loved one. We feel in the depths of our very being that there must be more to them than a decomposing body. It is a strange universe without God. 

William Shakespeare perhaps summed up why it makes no sense if as we read in Macbeth that …

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Confronted with such non-sense, Leo Tolstoy refused to give in to doubt and disbelief in God and an afterlife. Instead, he turned to God, Who assures us of life eternal as we hear in the depths of our being the ringing of bells and singing of angels.

I love these words written long ago by a minister who was well acquainted with death while serving as pastor during the London Blitz when death and destruction rained down on the city every night:

If death were the end it would be as if the universe had produced its supreme creation and then flung it away like a capricious child throws away its toy.

A Godless and death-suffocating existence makes this a stranger than fiction world!

I close by returning to the “famous preacher of a former era” who wrote:

We have never succeeded in getting rid of God. There is a flame in our heart that will not go out. Friends, if there were no God it would be easier to disbelieve in him than it is. We cannot get rid of God, because all that is best in us is God in us.

Amen!

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