A few days ago, I heard someone use the phrase “Without God” and it got me thinking about what this phrase might mean. It’s not uncommon for a Christian to say, for instance, “Without God I am lost”, “I can’t do this without God” or “I couldn’t carry on without God”.
Christians often talk about the way in which we can become estranged from God. One of the key events in the Christian story is the fall of man, when it is believed a kind of separation between man and God took place. Also, as exemplified above, Christians talk about scenarios where people supposedly choose to abandon God and “go their own way”.
So, what are the areas of our lives from which God, according to the phraseology Christians use, can become detached? I believe that by pondering the ontology of God — that is what exactly God is, we can shed light on this matter. Have you ever thought about what God is?
We can use words to describe God like mighty, benevolent, forgiving… but such words do not describe the ontology of God. If we’re looking at what God is, we need to ask questions like “What is God’s form?” and “Is God embodied?” Two particularly useful questions we can ask are “Where is God?” and “What is God doing right now?”
Pondering these questions is what brought me to the realisation that God must be boundless being, rather than contained in an embodied form. If you say a prayer such as “God, please bless my job interview” or “God, please give me a safe journey” you are acknowledging that God is in control of the events of your life. If God is ensuring that your train journey or job interview goes well, then it would be highly illogical to argue that God is separate from creation.
When I observe the world around me, and examine my own consciousness, it looks and feels to me as though they are without boundaries. If existence doesn’t have boundaries, then there is no place where creation ends and God begins. So, according to this logic, God’s being must permeate creation in a boundless way.
I understand now, after thinking these things through, that there is no separateness from God, and that God is everywhere. To use a philosophical phrase, this is a kind of pantheism (all is God), or panentheism (all is in God). These terms capture something of the understanding of God that makes the most sense to me, although they do cause serious problems in terms of the Christian worldview, because if there is no separateness from God, there is no freedom from God, or free will. If we do not have free will, it would be difficult to argue we are responsible for sin, and it also means that the idea of divine judgment makes little sense.
Christian readers, are you willing to reconsider your understanding of the Christian faith in light of what I’ve said in this article? For many people, this would be a very fearful thing to do, because the message of Christianity is very powerful in the way it can grip our lives. But remember, Christianity presents one worldview among very many. There are billions of people who live and die outside of the Christian faith.
All I ask is that you consider the arguments I’ve made in this article for yourself, and with an open mind. It may be that the fear of questioning your Christianity is stronger for you than your willingness to accept certain truths. That’s understandable, I don’t want to go to hell either, and so I respect your decision.
But my final thought is this. Is it really likely that God will punish you for your actions if it is He who made those actions happen? Do you believe in such an unspeakably cruel, unkind, and unjust God?
By all means, carry on with your Christian walk and live with the problems I have described in this article. I would certainly understand your desire to do so. But, if I am correct, and God is in control of all events, then God has caused me to write this article, and He has caused you to read it, and perhaps there is a reason why.
The theme of God’s omnipresence is at the heart of my latest book, entitled God’s Grand Game, which explores the divine sovereignty versus human free will problem in depth and from a range of different angles. To buy the book, go here. Thank you for reading.