Is your world sterile and dead? Is it something that works of its own accord like a clock or a computer program? Or is your world full of personality and power?
Does the storm come because high and low-pressure areas collide, or because someone orders it? When the sun rises, is it because of the eternal revolutions of the Earth, or because someone said to the sun and Earth, “Do it again!”? How does the world work?
You might be surprised that throughout history the answer to this question has not been the one that might come to mind today. People in the past did not think storms were the result of high and low-pressure systems colliding. No, a storm was caused by gods like Thor, before their thrones were bought by Disney. When the citizens of an ancient city looked at the sky and saw the signs of a storm, they were far more likely to begin a special ritual to placate the storm god rather than merely praying that the storm wouldn’t be too bad.
Which are we more likely to do?
Obviously, we pray to God and ask that there would not be too much damage caused by the storm, as though God needed to ride to the rescue in order to reign in nature. We ask God to do this or that, and what we are really asking is for God to poke His finger into the world, to interfere in it when He usually sits back and lets it move.
In this way, God is like a computer programmer. He’s created the machine and it is running, and every once in a while He has to interfere because the program has a bug, or because one of His children in the program asks for Him to change something.
When we think about deity, of God generally, this is probably what most of us think. We do not deny His existence, not at all.
We look around us and see the signs of His creative hand, but only in a forensic kind of way. We are like Sherlock Holmes, or a member of NCIS, or of any number of other investigators. We see evidence of something that occurred in the past. We look at the world around us, examine how it works, and conclude that someone designed it.
But we make a mistake after this discovery. It is an assumption even if it is not a conscious choice. In looking at the design of the universe we cannot help but think that everything is moving on its own, rather like a wind-up monkey that has been wound by God and is marching away clanging its cymbals. God is a little ways away, watching, and every once in a while adjusts the course of the monkey. The world works because God designed it to work, and He only has to interfere every now again.
I think many of us see the world this way, and see God’s relationship to the world in this way, but is it what is revealed in the Bible? Not at all! God is much more intimately involved than this. He is far nearer than this perspective hopes or imagines. Just consider what God says in Job 38:25-26.
“Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man?”
The answer to the question is, of course, that God has done this, but notice the specificity. It is not just that God turns the water faucet on, but He directs the water to fall somewhere in particular. He creates a channel for it to move down. He commands it to rain upon an area that no human has visited. And just consider what He says about the thunderbolt! He doesn’t just turn on the electric machine to watch where the lightning might strike. No, he directs the path of the thunderbolt, telling the electrons to flow exactly from one place to another—and He does it every time.
When we talk about God existing this is what we mean. He is living and active, giving you every beat of your heart, and moving the nations of the world. He is the grand mover of history, and the one writing the story of each individual life.
- Romans 1
- Leviticus 14:33-53
- Job 38-41
- Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
- Why might it be important to know that God is always at work and not just interfering in the world every once in a while?
- How might this bring hope to a person?
About the Author:
Sam Andersen is a member of the Evangelical Free Church of Oelwein, Iowa where he has the opportunity to teach in different capacities. He holds a MA degree in History from Liberty University and a Bachelor of Ministry degree from the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development. He is the author of The Trinity Mystery a book that explores the doctrine of the Trinity and its implications, and the children’s book Falling Through the Creek. Email Sam at: firstname.lastname@example.org.