The other day I was invited to join a Facebook group called, “Does G-d exist, and what’s the difference?” Now to be honest the first half of the question didn’t grab my interest. I obviously believe he does, and I think this belief stands up to reason and argument. The person who started this page seems to want to go through these argument, I wish him luck and prayer.
However, the second question I found much more interesting.
The first thing it did was take me back to a conversation I had many years ago. I’m not sure how old I was, probably about 18 or 19. I was in my new, evangelical, charismatic, hit people over the head with the Bible phase. I must have been unbelievably annoying to my non-Christian friends. I was determined to talk about Jesus. No matter what the subject, I was able to make it about Jesus.
“Hey David, you want to go to the pub?” “Sure, I mean Jesus was always going to parties. But his life wasn’t all partying, it ended with him dying on a cross. Let me tell you what that means …”
“Hey David, you want to go to the cinema?” “Sure, I love a good story. You know who was a good story-teller? Jesus! Of course, the leaders at the time tried to shut him up, so in the end he died on the cross. Let me tell you why …”
In fact I saw this clip from The Big Bang Theory the other day and it reminded me of myself back then:
That’s exactly what I was like, only instead of talking about space, I wanted to talk about Jesus! How on earth these wonderful, patient friends of mine stopped themselves from subjecting me to a slow, painful death, I’ll never know!
Anyway, it was during this phase that I had a conversation with one of these friends who eventually said, “Look David, there might be a god, or there might not, but I really don’t see what possible difference it could make to my life … so who cares!” At the time I simply could not get my head round that answer. I could not see how someone could think it made no difference.
Since then I’ve realised something … not everyone means the same thing when they say “god”.
Even those people who don’t believe in a god, have a picture in their head of the god they don’t believe in. Richard Dawkins apparently gets sick of Christians telling him that the god he’s arguing against isn’t the god they believe in. Maybe, instead of getting sick of hearing the argument, he should try listening to it instead!
Those people who aren’t sure whether a god exists will still have, even subconsciously, a picture in their head of what this possible god is like. When I go round to families who want their child baptised, or speak to teenagers at our youth group or whatever, by what they say and how they say it, they reveal that they have a view of what their god, even if they’re not sure he exists, is like.
If the god you picture was the cosmic kick-starter, who triggered the big bang and then disappeared from the scene, then of course it makes no difference to your life! Why would it? If god is distant and uninvolved in everyday life, then what possible difference can it make? Maybe, at the end, when we’re about to fly off into the unknown land of the dead, we’ll consider it, as that might bring god closer, but until then who cares?
Maybe god is the ultimate mathematician? He adds up all the good things you do, and all the bad things you do and, in the end, checks which column is bigger. Provided the divine scales eventually tip the right way, then everything will be ok. Maybe, if I’ve done something really bad I’ll just pop along to church a few times, or go and help some old people across the street, and that should balance the scales again.
Likewise, in different religions you find different meanings of the word ‘god’. In Buddhism there is no god, or rather, there are lots of gods. We’ve all been gods in the past, and we will again as we go through the endless cycle. The existence of this kind of god would make no difference at all. The god of Islam is the one holy, all-knowing, powerful god. A god of justice and infinite power, so beyond humanity as to be distance and ultimately unknowable. The existence of this kind of god would be different again, wouldn’t it? It might make a difference, but what kind of difference?
The Christian faith is different again. The Bible does not talk about a god who is distant and far away, but one who is constantly and intimately involved in his creation. While it talks of a god who is all-powerful, and all-knowing, he is far from being distant. Instead, it talks of a god who enters into his creation, becoming one of us, so as to communicate with us and bring us into a relationship, a love affair, with him. It talks of a god who goes to a cross and dies a painful death, in order to bring reconciliation between himself and the world (2 Cor 5:19). It talks about a god who strives, who yearns, to know us. Would the existence of this god make a difference? I think you’d have to agree, it would!
One of my favourite songs is called “Make a difference”, and is by a man called Paul Field. In it he sings:
It’s got to make a difference from the cradle to the grave.
To the diamonds and the dirt that we dig up along the way.
It’s got to make a difference if we really understand
If a cross can be a crown and God can be a man.
It’s got to make a difference in this world of our mistakes
To the lies that we won’t swallow and the crap that we won’t take.
It’s got to make a difference, if we really understand.
It completely changes everything, if God can be a man.
You see within people’s understands there are lots of different gods, believing in one or some of these would make no difference at all. But, while there may be lots of gods, there is only one God, and believing in Him, well … that changes everything.