Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace by Frank Schaeffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Prophet Job declared: “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” And yet it was the same Job also stated: “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. …Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?” This is the same Job who cries out: “Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?”
The prophet Job is conflicted. He rejoices in God, and has hope in the bodily resurrection. And yet at the same time he curses the day he was born to this life of trouble, this life of sin and strife. Why does God give light and life to a man, only to have him suffer torment. Why?
Let Job stand in for humanity, and you have the human condition. The torments of Job are the torments of us all. Even when things are going well, we know things could turn on a dime. And, ultimately, we all die. So what is the point of it all?
And yet there are great books, there is beautiful music, and there is the sort of love that transcends this mortal coil, that brings us out of ourselves and points the way to — to what exactly? We don’t really know, except to say that everything in our human experience tells us this material existence cannot be all there is. For if we as humans know love and beauty, and if we recoil at horror and death, then we know that none of this makes sense if this material world is all there is. For death is normal, it comes to us all. We cannot escape death; all we can do it try to rise above it before it takes us all. And yet what does it mean to rise above it, if this material world is all there is? Why bother trying? Why not do as Job’s wife suggested — why not curse God and die?
We have our dreams, our desires, and our doubts. Does God exist? Well no, God does not exist in the same way we exist. If there is indeed a God, this God must stand apart from this existence. This God must transcend this world of matter and energy in the same way that art, love, and companionship transcend our mortal existence — the same way art, love, and companionship provide our lives with meaning and purpose. Is God good? Well no, not in the way we think of good, as something defined in terms of our lives, something that provides benefit to the things we appreciate and the persons we love. The goodness of God, if indeed it exists, cannot be defined on our terms; the greater cannot be defined in terms of the lesser.
And so, as Frank Schaeffer writes, we can doubt the love of God, the goodness of God, and indeed the existence of God — or at the very least the certainties provided by our faith communities — while still seeing signs of the existence of God all around us. We can taste God in the flesh of a freshly picked tomato on a warm summer’s day; we can hear God in the laughing of grandchildren; we can see God in the faces of those who know us best, and love us anyway.