My belief that God is the sustainer and animator of the whole of creation is somewhat controversial among Christians and others who believe in free will. After all, if we do not have free will then ideas like sin, the fall, and judgment, don’t necessarily make sense.
However, I believe there is a certain perspective (or perhaps let’s call it a framework), in which these central Christian ideas can be understood in a new light, stemming from an understanding of God’s true nature and what that means for His relationship with human beings. In this article, I will outline this framework.
At the core of the framework is the idea that whatever you do is what God is doing through you. The best analogy I have found for this is that of a puppet show. In a puppet show, puppets can have distinct personalities and attributes and can be so realistic that a child who is watching the show might forget about the puppet master completely.
We are puppets in the theatre of life and God is the puppeteer, or to broaden the metaphor, I like to use the phrase ‘cosmic animator’ to describe God. He is the life force that sustains and animates all activity in the microcosm (on a small scale, such as the working of atoms) and the macrocosm (on a large scale, such as the movement of planets) and everything inbetween.
In order for you to accept what I am saying about the way God is involved in creation, I ask you to consider His attribute of omnipresence. If God is omnipresent, there is no particle anywhere in creation which is not a part of Him. And it follows logically that everything that is a part of God must be under God’s control. So if God is truly omnipresent, He is also in control of everything in existence.
Now although much of the time I am aware of God as I go about my daily life, because He speaks to me or because I feel His presence, at other times I’m not directly aware of God, and it is during those times that I feel as though I am a free agent. As a person to whom God has revealed Himself, there are dimensions of my life in which I experience Him that can be particularly vivid; in prayer, or during a praise and worship session, for instance. At other times, while doing some chores around the house, working a job, or having a meal with friends, it’s possible for me to forget about God and lose that awareness.
But just because in some situations I lose my awareness of God, that doesn’t mean He goes away. He is still omnipresent and in control of every aspect of my life, from my thoughts and words, to the functioning of my body, to my every action. It simply means that there is a mode of mind that we experience as part of God’s activity in our lives, where He makes us forget about Him. This is obviously an acute reality in the case of life-long atheists, who may never have an awareness of God, as He has totally veiled His existence in their minds and lives. It seems that God does not reveal Himself to everyone all of the time, and this is a central element of the game of human life that God is unfolding.
When we read the wonderful Biblical narratives depicting the interplay between God and His human creatures, we see that these stories reveal such interactions as command and obedience, action and judgment, prayer and response. In a world where God is omnipresent, this is peculiar, as in reality God is in control of both the command and the obedience, the action of humans and subsequent judgment, and even their prayers and His response to their prayers (imagine a puppet praying to his puppet master and you’ll understand what I mean).
But let us consider this paradox in terms of the bigger picture concerning who God is. God is the extremely powerful, uncaused, necessarily existing, eternal being, who created the entire universe, and everything in it. He has all of eternity at His disposal. What will He do with all this power and all this time? It seems logical to me that He would create a complex universe as a way of entertaining Himself as the vast aeons of eternity unfold.
What I propose is that God has created this great universe for His pleasure, and unfolding the complex story of creation is God’s pastime. In light of this, it makes sense that as part of His grand game, God would create complex and wonderful story lines, such as those that we find in the Abrahamic religions (and other religions).
Within the framework that I have outlined in this article, Christianity makes sense, though not in a mainstream or traditional way. All of life is animated by God, so all our decisions, including whether to follow Christ, whether to read the Bible, whether to visit our neighbour in hospital, whether to fast, repent, and believe – all of these Christian activities are the will of God in people’s lives and part of His grand game. The central events in the Christian story – the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection – these are also part of God’s storyline.
Believing as I do in an omnipresent God, this is the only way I can make sense of the Christian worldview. The fall is part of God’s plan, and so is redemption. Sin is part of God’s plan, and so is salvation. Atheism is part of God’s plan, and so is faith.
This is not what most Christians believe, but without this framework, Christianity makes no sense at all, for I firmly believe that the cherished Christian idea of free will is not logically compatible with the idea that God is omnipresent. If you’re going to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, you must also accept that we don’t have free will, and so a framework such as that outlined in this article becomes a necessary way of making sense of the Christian worldview.
For further elaboration on this perspective I recommend reading my book Ultimate Truth: God Beyond Religion which I sell on a not-for-profit basis. Visit my Books page for all the details.