Why in the world would we ever want to become non-theistic during one of the most obviously theistic seasons of the liturgical year? To such a natural question I would respond with another question: Why have we not done such a thing more often?
It is scary on some level for any individual to let go of what they think is most foundational to existence. But I’ve found that it can lead to new reality. And, heck, even Jesus let go of God at one point.
WHAT WOULD THE REALITY OF NO GOD MEAN?
As a former pastor throughout the southeast US, I’ve discovered a sad and troubling reality. Many self-identifying Christians cling to their God for what supposedly happens after their death.
Perhaps you’ve heard the trite expression of God being a “get-out-of-jail-free card” used as a critique of the whole Christian project. And yet, it sure seems like a surprising amount of Christians can’t come up with anything better for explaining why they believe what they believe.
And if following Jesus and believing in the in reality of the God he called Father only afforded me some everlasting life in some sort of heaven, I wouldn’t be a Christian either. “Eternal life” and all we think we know that means has nothing to do with my faith. In fact, I’d still follow Jesus if there were no life-after-death scenarios. And I do.
Side note: “eternal life” as used in the narratives we have doesn’t have to do with time, it has to do with quality. It would be more accurate to call it “God-quality life” or “the life, death, and resurrection Jesus lived.” And it’s so cool that we have the opportunity to participate in that. There is an “everlasting life” that deals with time, but that’s different from “eternal life.”
OK, back to the article …
Becoming non-theist does not effect my view of eternity, because eternity is not part of why I follow Jesus.
Oh I still hold to the ancient creed that proclaims the “life everlasting.” But that is, after all, the very last statement in the whole thing and hardly a deal breaker for me. And hey there may be such a thing. If so, then great! That’s just a nice bonus, I guess.
You see, I’m much more interested in living resurrection now than I am experiencing some ill-conceived human projection of an life in eternity.
I’m more interested in living resurrection now than experiencing some ill-conceived human projection of an eternal life.
Let me explain.
I follow Jesus because I accept the reality of his resurrection and I consider him real. He is my friend, my mentor, my older brother in the way of the God he calls Father, and my king. He is all these things to me because of both his humanity and his divinity. If either his humanity or divinity is taken away, he is not those things to me. To become non-theist then, means for me to withhold divinity from Jesus, thereby denying myself of this unique resurrected person I’ve come to know.
And in some very truthful ways, that is a far greater sacrifice than giving up a ticket to eternity.
Yet, this week, especially on Good Friday, I’m allowing myself to contemplate what it would mean to lose this very human-divine friend, mentor, older brother, and king.
And it is a healthy practice to contemplate and question ourselves about a reality with no God. Even Jesus experienced this.
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the followers of the Way in the city of Philippi that Jesus let go of all that was God so that he might become entirely like us. And on that day we remember each Good Friday, Jesus cried out the opening lines of Psalm 22 which clearly recalls an individual who is facing a reality with no God.
Allow yourself to sit with this question for a few days this week: What would it really mean to me for there to be no God?
Then consider another question: Is the world any different if there is no God?
I don’t have answers for these things. Because this is an individual practice. Your answers will likely be different from mine.
But the courage to embrace the question and wrestle with its doubts and implications will either make you more certain of God’s reality or more certain there is no God.
Either option is more honest than blind faith.
If you engaged in any of the becoming “non” resources for this Lent, would you let me know something about it? Leave a comment below, use the contact form to send an email, or hit me up on Twitter. What worked? What didn’t? What did you gain from this experiment? Would you like to see it again with new focuses?
Thanks for being part of this with me.
All the resources for the previous weeks of “Becoming ‘Non’ for Lent” can be found here.