God does not exist. According to Jurgen Moltmann, anyway. And I must admit, I concur. Those four words do a lot to explain who God is, and who he is not.
Before I get into this too deeply, let me talk a bit about Moltmann. He is a theologian who is most well known for developing the Theology of Hope in the 1960s. His teachings helped to usher Christianity into the Twentieth Century. When most of the world was turning away from God in favor of going their own way, Moltmann gave us new perspectives that still define Christianity today. These perspectives mostly have to do with the eschatological concept that the end of time is already set. This certain future is pulling the present toward it, as opposed to the future being subject to the events of the past and present.
In order to understand the importance of the Theology of Hope, we must first understand the state of the world from which it rose. For starters, communism was a real danger in the 1960s, because it threatened to make everyone alike. This idea of sameness terrified people, and rightfully so. As people fought this oppression, the emphasis on individuality provided them with a sense of empowerment. This is not unlike what happened in the Renaissance, when people were roused from the dark ages with music and art. And it is a wonderful thing. People were meant to express their uniqueness.
But the world had also begun to deny the transcendence of God. He was no longer omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. The world had “woken up,” and much like they had done at the Tower of Babel, people favored their own abilities, and thumbed their noses at the idea of succumbing to an all knowing, all powerful God. Science and technology had taught us that we are only a small speck in the universe, and made up of even smaller specks. Personally, I think that we, as humans, had a problem with that. Call it an inferiority complex, little man complex, whatever. It didn’t suit our self-aggrandizing nature. If we are so little and the universe is so big, what place do we have in it? God didn’t have the answers, at least not in the form that a society looking for instant gratification was interested in seeking. So we began to rely on what we could explain with scientific facts and theories.
With science, we finally had the ability to answer the questions that we had been asking for centuries. Maybe we could even answer the questions of who we are and why we are here. We thought we didn’t need God to do this. We had telescopes, microscopes, and the ability to explore new concepts and ideas as never before.
Although it had been introduced in the late 1800s, the theory of evolution was embraced during the 1960s. The battle over whether it should be taught in schools was finally over, and evolution had won. This theory was being taught as fact. We latched onto evolution because it was something we could examine and explain with our perspective and language, much more so than we can explain the miraculous Creation account. The “why are we here” question had been answered.
But just because something can’t be explained doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth. And having an explanation for something doesn’t make it true. How many scientific “facts” were later found to be false? Is it really easier to think that you were the result of some cosmic accident, as opposed to something created for a specific purpose out of divine love?
In man’s search for significance, and in his desire to explain how he came to be, he has reduced himself to a sack of molecules. That doesn’t sound so significant, does it? I love science, by the way, because it explains God’s creation and I believe that the intricacies and laws of our physical world point to a divine Creator, because it is so perfect I can‘t accept that it was an accident. But man has used science to point to his own superiority, even as it declares that we are nothing more than cosmic goo.
And so, the Enlightment had come and the world’s view of God had shifted. The fundamental Christians acknowledged him, but they failed to relate God to modern times. The liberal Christians viewed this lack of relation as further proof that God did not have a place in modern society. If He was acknowledged at all, it was in the empowerment of the spirit; the divine in all things.
So you had the fundamental or orthodox Christians declaring that God is against all things worldly, and you had the liberal Christians declaring that man is capable of being like God (an attempt to make us feel better about that “cosmic goo“ thing, in my opinion). Who was right? How could God exist throughout all of time and space, and even beyond it, yet also exist in the present to influence events? And if he was influencing man, then that meant we did not have free will. I believe this is why the world came up with the idea that man could be like God. We love the idea of God, just not if it is perceived to take away our freedoms. But we need to examine this from another perspective.
Humans are primitive. Our five senses are very limiting. We are not capable of fully understanding the idea that God is infinite, and that he was never created. The idea of everything having a beginning and an end is a concept that is limited to OUR physical world. Everything we experience with our senses has a definite beginning and a definite end. But God is not bound by these limitations of time, space and matter. He has always been and always will be. He is.
So no, God was not created.
And so, he does not exist. In order for something to exist, it needs to have the ability to not exist. God created existence. Existence is our reality. His being cannot be explained by our human concepts. It is beyond us. We were made in his image, true; however, consider your reflection in a mirror. You could say that the person in the mirror is an image of you, and that is true, but it is still merely a reflection. It has many of the same qualities. Same hair and eye color, same facial expressions, same clothing, same scars. But it’s missing many of your characteristics. It is flat and cold, it cannot feel the air or the objects around it, it does not breathe, and it will not move unless you move. It looks like you, but it is nothing like you. We look like God, we share some of His characteristics, but we are nothing like God. We are limited and finite. He is eternal and infinite.
I remember when I was a very young child, maybe around age 4, and I had what I consider my first “God moment.” I was lying on the living room floor watching television with my sisters, when suddenly I became aware of my existence. I have tried to explain this experience many times, but I always fail because the words can’t adequately express it. Because, I believe, it was an experience that took me into a realm where human language is unnecessary and obsolete. But I’ll try here…at the same moment that I became aware of my existence – the shape of my hands, the feel of my breath, the fact that I’m alive – I also became aware of the fact that I might not exist. And I don’t mean death, I mean I realized there was something beyond existence. I saw this place almost like darkness, but it wasn’t dark as in the absence of light. It was tangible, like another plane that I was not allowed to see, hence the illusion of darkness. There was a veil over my human senses, or perhaps I had the wrong senses and so I was unable to experience it. But I could feel this other place. It was real.
The Theology of Hope touches on this idea, and uses it to explain how God can be transcendent and all-powerful, yet also give humans free will to make their own choices. If the future is already set, and if God is pulling us toward this future, then this would make us puppets on strings, right? No.
You must think about this fourth dimensionally. God has already experienced ALL of human history outside of the constraints of time. If you tried to put it into relatable terms, you might say that he experienced it all at once, and not in a linear pattern. So God already knows every move you will ever make. As such, he has already compensated. Your choice to get on the A train instead of the B train will not thwart God’s plan for you to run into John at the corner of Fifth Street and Main. He already knew you were going to make that choice, and so He made it so that John would run late (maybe he lost his keys), in order for the intended meeting to still occur.
One of my favorite books, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, explains this beautifully. She says that life is like a sonnet, which has a specific amount of lines, set in an exact iambic pentameter, with a distinct rhythm of rhyme. But within these limitations you are free to write about anything you want. We are merely provided the form of life, with the freedom to move about within that form.
This is a lot like the physical constraints that make up atoms and molecules, and the laws that force them to behave a certain way. Science had proven that matter will not change until there is a certain action to force that change. And even then, it is limited, bound to the form in which it has been set, and by the rules it must follow. Yet, mankind has used this limited matter to create beautiful buildings and sculptures. It has developed medicines and devices to prolong people’s lives. With limited matter, we have done amazing things.
And so it is with life.
Our lives are limited by the path laid out for us by a transcendent God. He pulls us toward a future that has already been determined, and from God’s perspective, has already occurred.
This gives us hope, because we are not at the mercy of our circumstances. We are not bound by the past. Since we know who wins in the end, we can truly be assured that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. If you are called for his purpose, and we all are whether we answer the call or not, then everything that happens to you is good, simply because you are being pulled toward the happy ending. This doesn’t mean the journey is always happy. In truth, we learn more from pain. But rest assured, there is a purpose in all of it, even if you can’t see it now. Remember, you must think fourth dimensionally, outside of the limitations of space, time and matter, where the end has already been determined.
And the good guys win.