This last Sunday, while preaching on 1 John 2:3-14, Pastor Bobby (of North Shore Community Baptist Church in Beverly South Hamilton MA) hinted on how Christianity (and the gospel) does not offer us just another item to add to the list of activities we already have. He mentioned that for most people, the invitation to a personal relationship with God looks just like that, an additional item on their ‘to-do-list.’
As I thought more about this, I wondered whether this sounds so in the ears of unbelievers because we subconsciously present God to them as another ‘object’ out there, albeit the ‘most important’ one.
Is it true, that without noticing, we present God as an option among many possibilities to people? Could this be one of the reasons they push God away, hoping to ‘have time’ or room for ‘a meaningful relationship with Him’ in some future, just when their list of activities reduces?
Today, during my Systematic Theology class, our Professor said that this kind of view of God could explain the tensions between science and religion. Non-theists tend to look at God as a grey-haired old man up in the sky pulling strings in the universe, altering decisions we make and ‘breaking’ the laws of nature. To have this thinking is to have the ‘god-of-the-gaps’ mindset, where God is brought in to explain what science does not explain. ‘God’ in this case is just another being, ‘alongside’ other things and beings.
Both Pastor Bobby and my Professor (Vidu) agree that this is not the right way we should be thinking about God. God is not just a being like, and among other beings, and thus, Christianity, in speaking about a relationship with Him, is not providing humanity with another option to add to their to-do-list. We should not be talking about God as something (or someone) to just ‘look at,’ but instead, we should know God as our eyes through which we look at things.
C. S. Lewis’ Helpful Illustration
C. S. Lewis in his Meditation in a Toolshed gives a couple of illustrations trying to make the difference between ‘looking at’ and ‘looking along.’
The boy who is ‘in love’ with a girl looks at the world in a different way now than he did just seconds before he met her. But the scientist, who is trying to explain the young man’s experience scientifically cannot locate this experience in the genes. He will thus not know what ‘being in love’ truly is until he is in love. The mathematician who ponders the ‘timeless and spaceless truths about quantity’ will look foolish to a cerebral Physiologist who just studies the mathematician’s brain looking for the concepts of timelessness and spacelessness, until, that is, he contemplates these things in themselves.
In both examples, there is a ‘looking at’ and a ‘looking along.’ There is external knowledge and internal knowledge. It is not that one sees, and the other does not, but it instead is about the condition or environment, or angle or lens with which one looks at reality.
The person who ‘experiences’ something, when looking at this in another man’s life will know what it is. The man who has never experienced it can speak certain things about it which are true, but will not know what it is in itself, or ‘truly.’ Therefore, it is those who have ever been ‘in love’ that can rightly speak about it, ‘love’ both being an object and an experience.
Indeed, ‘to be in love’ is not just another activity the boy adds to his list of things, but rather a new way of living his life. ‘Love’ to this boy is not just an object he can merely look at and touch and put under scientific experimentation, but rather a new operative environment.
God as The Essence of Existence
God is Love. And as we saw with love, those who love, or who are ‘possessed’ by love do not have an extra ‘to-do’ item added to life, but rather a new way of looking at things. It is called ‘worldview.’
When we believe in God, we are not adding Him to our life. Instead, we begin to see things, and even our ‘to-do list’ in a new way altogether. God becomes a ‘world-changer’ in the sense that our life makes sense in light of Him. We begin to see a thread connecting not only all our experiences but also all of life, visible and invisible, as woven by His hand. The way God has reveals Himself to us is not completely apart from creation, but precisely amid and through it. Our origin, meaning, morality, destiny, belonging, all make sense in light of God, Him being the ‘interpretive key’ to reality.
Thus, Christianity is not a strict division between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular.’ The scientist should go on with his scientific investigation, because God created nature intelligibly, and nature reveals Him as its creator and its sustainer. The psychologist may analyze the operations of the mind, because the mind, (including his own) is rational, having been fashioned ‘in the image of God’s word, His Logos/Logic.’
Thus, the Apostle Paul tells us: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17).
In other words, Christianity does not invite us to abandon our missions, but it commissions us to look at these very things differently. Do not just look at the things outwardly, but also through them, from their within. Look at both life and its principle. God is the medium of our living and moving and being, the reason for existence. He is why anything makes sense at all.
Acts 17:28: for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said
The Implications of This
This new way of thinking is what the doctrine of omnipresence teaches us. God is not just out there or in there in a particular geographical location. The Being of God permeates everything. The Psalmist speaks of how he cannot hide from the presence of God, not even by making his bed in hell! (Ps 139:8). This is because God permeates everything, both causing and sustaining creation.
When we share the gospel with others, we are inviting them to a relationship that changes the way they look at things. We are asking them to come to light. We are not as much changing their world, as we are switching on light so that they may see the real nature of things in their world. We invite them, not to add something to their daily routine, but to make sense of this very routine. Christ lightens their yoke, by helping them align their priorities right, by being the truth that removes the load of deception, and by being the strength, joy, and reason as to why they go about their daily activities.
The gospel invites us to this change of worldview, to see the hand of God at work in the most mundane happenings of daily life. It calls us to discover that there is a relational nature to all that happens in this world, and this interconnectedness owes its character to the very nature of the Trinitarian God who, because of being a trinity is relational. The gospel calls us to see that life is founded upon Life; love has its origin and strength as from Love, that our ability to be productive even in cooking or washing dishes comes from the joy of the Lord.
We are tasked to communicate the mystery of God as a light that shines in the dark, not as an object seeking to displace another item on our list of things in our daily routine. We are invited to Life, to Love, to Light, to Joy, to Logic, to make sense of whatever is. We are encouraged to the come to the eternal bliss that informs and sustains us even (and especially) in our most unhappy days. We are not asking people to have more things to do, but rather to have life, even life in its fullness.
To be saved means to be born again, to have the light shining in our dimness, and to know with certainty the nature of things, things that the unregenerate cannot see, for the very reason of their being in darkness. Evangelism is a call to migration, from night to light, from death to life. It is not a mathematical addition on a to-do-list, but an informed perspective on why anything we do matters, ultimately, and eternally.
I am always glad to hear from readers. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org