This is a question/objection that I frequently hear. Maybe it’s your objection. It runs something along these lines. The human race has grown up. We’re able to explain the world around us without reference to a creator God. We don’t need religion to fill in the gaps in our understanding. We are happy with life. We find contentment and enjoyment without the need for faith. We’re able to live moral, tolerant lives without needing clergymen telling us how to live. So do we really need a God?
It’s not that we’ve all suddenly been captivated by the likes of Richard Dawkins and militant New Atheism. In fact, we’re not that impressed with him either. It’s just that we are…well…happy.
The question relates to two important presuppositions.
Do I truly know what it means to be happy?
What is happiness dependent upon and will it be permanent?
About God and this World
That this World exists and can be defined and understood without reference to God
Linked to this, I come with my assumptions/presuppositions about how we define the God that we do not need.
I want to take you to two conversations with Jesus that give us some important clues about this.
A man comes to Jesus and says “What must I do to inherit eternal life” We might re-word it today as what must I do to find meaning, happiness, peace, “the something more”. Jesus and the man have a conversation about laws and morals. It turns out that he lives a moral life following the religious rules of his day. He also has riches and status. He is doing well. Jesus tells him “there’s one thing you are missing.” Then instead of saying “add something to the pile” he says “take something away!” He tells him to give up all his wealth, give to the poor and follow after Jesus.
There were two men who built houses. The one built on a rock, in other words, he found good foundations. The other built straight up on the sand. No doubt both houses looked good and the two men enjoyed living in them. However, one day a storm came and whilst the house with foundations stood firm, the one built on sand was swept away.
In these two conversations we are challenged, first of all about what true happiness is. The rich young man seemed to have everything but in fact he was still searching, saying “There must be more to it than this.”
The foolish builder reminds us that what we depend upon for happiness matters. We can look to material wealth, beauty, popularity, respect, friendship and family for happiness. But none of these things last, wealth gets spent, beauty fades, friends let us down. We may survive the initial storms of life but eventually the great storm “death” comes. That’s why the man asks about eternal life –something more than the here and now
About God and this World
Imagine that you’re on the train. Maybe you’ve got to travel first class. You are enjoying the ambiance of the carriage. The seat is comfortable, the food brought direct to your table is good and the company is good too. In fact you are contributing to the ambience with your sharp wit and wisdom. Fair enough, but what if you then began to think “I like it in this carriage. We are all happy and enjoying ourselves. It’s a good carriage. It really does not need a driver or engine.”
You would be foolish to define the carriage without reference to the train and the driver. Yet so often our take on life is equally introverted as we try to define and understand this world without reference to anyone or anything outside. People have tried to do this for centuries. Even before Darwin and evolution, people wanted to get on with life without reference to a God who was near and involved.
But you see, the question “Does This World really need a God” shortcuts the important prior question. “Is there a God?” If there is a God then it does not matter whether or not we feel the need for Him. Likewise if there is no God then desiring one will do us no good either.
A man called Paul who was an early follower of Jesus turns up in Athens, the centre of civilisation and wandering through the City he finds a monument to “the unknown God.” He begins debating with the philosophers of Athens and says “this unknown God, well I know him and I want to introduce him to you. He is the creator, he is the one ‘in whom we move and have our being.”
We cannot escape the sense that there must be something more than this. Even the best efforts to explain the existence of the World fall down without recognising this. There’s the famous unattributed story of the conversation between two people. One insists that the earth is carried on the back of a giant turtle. “But what carries the turtle” asks his friend? “Another turtle” comes the reply. “What about that turtle, what supports it.” “Another turtle, obviously!” He is told and so the frustrating conversation goes on until the first man declares “It’s Turtles all the way down.”
This is the problem. There must be a foundation, there must be something that has caused this world to come into existence. Everyone believes in something eternal, otherwise where does time and space come from? We either believe that the Universe itself is eternal or that it had a beginning, call it The Big Bang or creation or whatever. If so, then behind that start point must be aa greater cause, something eternal, something infinite.
So we have a choice. We either believe in something eternal that is personal and near or impersonal and distant, the sort of god that lights the touch paper and stands back leaving us to get on.
One day, Jesus and his disciples went sailing on Lake Galilee. A great storm arose. His friends were afraid. They thought they were going to drown. Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat. They shook him and woke him. “Help us! We are going to drown!” Jesus stood up and spoke. He addressed the storm, the wind and the waves. “Be still.” Jesus is the one who calms the storm. He was ab le to speak to the weather and it obeyed. Why? The answer is that Jesus is the same person who spoke to the creation at the start of time. He spoke it into existence. The God who made this World is not distant and impersonal. He has stepped down into His creation and lived among us.
But even a God who is near might not be welcome. So often, in our minds, God is a harsh rule making policeman. God is there waiting to catch us out and punish us. But the truth is different. The story of the Bible is of a loving Father who made us and cares for us. We reject him and he has every right to punish us. But he does not repay us as our sins deserve. Instead, the loving Father sent His Son into the World to take our place and bear the punishment of death we deserve. He took my place and yours on the Cross.
And Here’s the Surprise
We should be asking “Does God need the World” “Does God need us” “Does God need me”
And….actually the answer is “NO”
But he chose to make you, he chooses to love you he has chosen to call you.