Your calling is you are on planet Earth to put a telescope to the eye of the world. That’s why you exist. By your behavior, your parenting, the way you do your job, the way you worship, and the way you handle your things in life, everyone should read off of your life, “God is great.” That’s why you exist.
— John Piper, Why Am I Here?
Evangelicals such as Calvinistic Fundamentalist John Piper have a reductionist view of the world. In their minds, the sum of everything is the Christian God. Everything traces back to God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and the beginning and the end. God is in believers, they live their lives through him, and to him go all praise, honor, and glory. This God is a jealous deity, demanding that his followers worship him alone. Worshiping other Gods or no God at all brings upon people his wrath and judgment. This God demands that believers in him devote their entire being to him. He is not only the hub around which everything turns, he is also the rim, tube, and tire. Simply put, from birth through eternity, life is all about God.
After Evangelicals have spent their entire lives worshiping God, guess what they get to do after they die? More of the same. Believers will spend their days, months, years, and centuries in Heaven prostrate before God, giving him praise, honor, and glory for saving them. Granted, according to the Bible, there will be no more pain, suffering, or death, but surely an eternity spent in repetitious worship will, in time, become b-o-r-i-n-g. Who really wants to spend every moment of every day telling God how awesome he is? Wouldn’t a thousand or two years of devoted adoration be enough for God? We humans love and crave the approbation of one another, but I suspect if all we heard day in and day out was people telling is how stupendous we are, we would finally say, enough! Much like Donald Trump, God never tires of hearing our praises. Keep the praise coming! Tell me again about how hugely awesome I am!
Realizing that the aforementioned picture of eternity is not too appealing to most people, Evangelicals try to spice up the sales pitch with stories about eternity being a perfected version of now. Remove sin, sickness, pain, death, LGBTQ people, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and Democrats and give everything that remains eternal qualities — that’s an eternity worth dying for. In this Hitlerian-sanitized world, God’s people will have the desires of their heart. Sure, there will be times of organized praise and worship. Can’t forget who made the awesomeness of eternity possible, right? But most of the never-ending time will be spent enjoying the very things we enjoyed on earth.
While this second version of eternity sounds more appealing, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity living in a place where I can’t enjoy the very things that make this life worth living. Remember, in eternity there will be no family connections. No wife, no children, no parents. All human relationships are dissolved the moment Jesus, the groom, is eternally married to his bride, the church/elect/saved. I can’t imagine a life worth living without Polly, my children, and grandchildren. God, of course, demands loyalty, obedience, and singleness of heart, so I understand why he demands all familial relationships be dissolved. Can’t have anyone getting between individual believers and their jealous God.
No matter how eternity is viewed, everything tracks back to the thrice-holy, triune God of the Protestant Christian Bible. It’s all about him. It has ALWAYS been about God. Think, for a moment. Why did God create humans 6,022 years ago? Why did God cause/allow humans to sin? God created us without sin, yet he lets us be tempted and fall into sin. Why? So he could ride in on his white horse and save us. God could have created humans so they would never, ever sin, yet he chose, instead, to give them the capacity to kill, rape, steal, and destroy (and even commands them, at times, to do so). The only reason I can think God did this is that he wants to feel needed. Surely this is the reason for all the sickness, disease, and famine. Once humans are laid low, then they will cry out for help, and God will be right there to answer their prayers .000000000001 percent of the time; answering just enough petitions to make people think that he is a prayer-answering God; answering just enough prayers to make believers think that their deliverance is more than randomness and chance.
John Piper would have us believe that the sum of human existence is to give testimony to the greatness of the Christian God. What he fails to answer is the question WHY? Why does the Evangelical God need us to tell him and reveal to others how super-duper he is? Dare we dig too far into this question, only to find out that the reason God needs human approbation is that he is a narcissist; that he is as needy as a cat, demanding to have the back of his head constantly rubbed? God has some deep-seated emotional problems. He would probably benefit from therapy. If this is not so, explain to me why God created humans as he did. Wouldn’t it have been better for everyone if God had left Satan and sin out of the construction plans? Think of how much less work it would be for God if humans were just like him. Christians wouldn’t need to pray, and God wouldn’t have to spend time hearing and not answering prayers. Life, in every way, would have been better if God hadn’t written the “falling into sin” narrative into the script. But, he did. Why?
The Bible actually gives us the answer to this question in Genesis 3:22:
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever
Sin, oddly, gave Adam and Eve the capacity to be Gods. All they needed to do eat fruit from another tree — the tree of life. If they had eaten this fruit they would never have died; they never would have had any need for the Christian God. Can’t have that! The Gods blocked access to the tree of life. From this moment forward, Evangelicals and their God have been in a codependent relationship — each needing the other. God craves the adoration, worship, and praise of believers, and Christians crave the purpose, meaning, and direction gained from worshiping him.
To atheists, what I have written above sounds like grade-A hooey — nonsense of the first degree. However, countless people believe the sum existence and purpose of their lives is God. These sincere followers of Jesus trudge through life thinking that they don’t matter; that everything they say or do is for the glory of God. Jesus told his followers in John 15:5: for without me ye can do nothing.
Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?
Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”
And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.
According to Piper, humans are paraplegics unable to do anything for themselves. Unbelievers, of course, rightly laugh at such a notion. We know differently. Our experiences tell us that many varying factors influence our actions; that we can live life fully and happily without belief in God. In fact, many Christians know this, yet pretend otherwise when at church or in conversations with fellow believers. Common sense says that we are not helpless. And once people realize that they are not helpless, guess what? They no longer have a need for God. This is why the John Pipers of the world spend significant time telling people that they are hopeless, helpless sinners who need God in their lives. Instead of helping people become better, many Evangelical preachers spend their lives reinforcing the codependent relationship between addicts and their dealer. Jesus, then, becomes like a snort of coke, causing believers to become high on (and addicted to) God. As long as the supply of drugs flows, addicts will continue to praise the awesomeness of cocaine. This is why churches have so many activities during the week. Churches have midweek services so congregants can make it to Sunday. Wednesday night church becomes a snort of Jesus to get believers through the week. The same can be said of Bible studies, youth group, special meetings, Christian exercise programs, Christian concerts, etc. All of these things are meant to keep Evangelicals high on Jesus. After all, without cocaine, uh, I mean Jesus, believers can do nothing.
As an atheist, I too have a drug of choice. Instead of turning to formularies of a Bronze Age religious text, I choose instead to get high on life. This life is the only one I will ever have. I have no thoughts of heaven, hell, or eternity, choosing instead to focus on the here and now. I say, LIFE IS GREAT. Yes, with life comes pain, suffering, disappointment, and loss. On balance, though, today is an awesome day to be alive. It sure beats the alternative.
Let me conclude this post with the piece of advice I give on my ABOUT page:
You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.
Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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