What would the world be like without God?
A FEW YEARS AGO, THAT QUESTION WAS SERIOUSLY ON MY MIND. Although I believe in the reality of God, I recognize there are other intelligent people who do not.
So, the question motivated me to engage in a “thought experiment.”
Economists, in particular, are known for conducting thought experiments to clarify a principle or theory that would otherwise be subject to obscure technical jargon. (For an especially good sampling of economics thought experiments, check out Gene Callahan's book, Economics for Real People).
But why should economists have all the fun? Why not apply their technique to reflecting about God?
A Surprise Result
To conduct my experiment, I strolled to what we called the Upper Field. It was a remote part of our 100-acre property—an open, grassy bowl of several acres, surrounded by trees and hills.
I chose a spot on the edge of the field as my thought lab. One by one, I intended to analyze what would be different about the scene if God didn't exist.
For the better part of an hour, I studied the trees, grass, the sounds, even blue tones in the sky. I began to fear, though, that my experiment was failing because I couldn’t picture what would be different there without God.
I sat in disappointed silence for several minutes until my underlying view of the world suddenly revealed why I was having so much trouble. In an instant, I realized that I truly believe a Creator God exists. And if a Creator does exist, then nothing exists without Him—including everything in my upper field. Even I would not be there to evaluate life-without-God.
I’ve written elsewhere about the reasonableness of believing in God (see my post “Engineering a Right Appreciation of God”), so I won’t go into that here. What's significant about the thought experiment that day is that it actually worked.
The mental test reminded me the starting point for understanding anything around us is to recognize that it must have been started by a Creator. Someone made all this.
Existing on Purpose
So, what does this have to do with the dream-building business of doing life differently?
First of all, it affects why you believe you have a purpose. If you're part of a designed way of things, then what you do matters. Which means it matters whether or not you choose a path leading to a better use of you.
Second, grasping the reality of God’s existence is, itself, different. We live in a radical continuum of thinking about God. On one extreme, we find people who think “belief in God” equates with “blind faith.” I chafe whenever I hear the term because it’s far from the truth about what it takes to believe in God (I refer you again to “Engineering a Right Appreciation of God”).
At the other extreme lies the more politically correct, secular view of the world. I recently read an article by Fr. Stephen Freeman, an Orthodox Christian priest, in which he points out that “the secular heresy” is to try to find “the meaning and cause of the world within the world itself.”*
Often, the secular view does not promote outright atheism (most people still want to believe that a God exists). Rather, it relegates “God” to the realm of ideas, which means that, practically speaking, He does not exist. An idea doesn’t create a universe. With God as merely an “idea,” we’re back to the result of my thought experiment: Nothing is there for me to observe. The world's "meaning and cause" is not inside the universe we live in.
The bottom-line significance for Different is this: Grasping that the world is designed by Someone for a purpose will seriously reinforce your own sense of purpose.
You fit into a “grand scheme” in a particular way.
Look around. All of this is here for a reason—which means you are, too. Daring to be Different frees you to discover your reason for being.
* You can read Freeman’s complete article here:
If you’d like to read an inviting treatment of finding your own purpose, I recommend Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. The book offers a great starting point for mustering the courage to have life your way. Using his own story, Palmer is vulnerable and engaging while he delivers unequivocal wisdom and guidance for your path. At 128 small-format pages, it's one of the most meaningful quick-reads you'll ever find.
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