Monday, August 04, 2008

That God Shaped Void

Every now and then I want to write on a very specific thing I've been thinking about, only to come across somebody else who does first. This in turn triggers my post. Today I came across a post from Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk (aka iMonk), about the idea of the God shaped void. I've heard it said a thousand times in preaching and teaching and in common Christiantalk that there's a God shaped hole in everyone's heart, and that unbelievers fill it with everything else except God. They sense the void, and are extremely unhappy with life. Their gluttonous appetite for superficial things leads them to mask their despair with vain materialism. What I didn't know was that the original idea supposedly came from St. Augustine. The iMonk's post contains a link to his older post on this.

A few months ago I started thinking about this, since I heard the God shaped hole thing somewhere, and I realized that in general, unbelievers were capable of being quite happy and fulfilled with life. Many of them don't live in despair and generally aren't clutching at anything and everything to try to add meaning to their lives. I also saw an unbeliever comment on a Christian's blog somewhere a few months ago about his unbelief or atheism (or whatever), and other Christians' replies to him that he was leading a meaningless life and was depressed about it. He replied with incredulity that others could possibly know this, and their reply was that he was lying to himself because they knew better!

The Scriptures say many things about men's hearts and thoughts, but they also say much about the happiness and contentment of nonbelievers. Luke 16 (the rich man and Lazarus) describes the rich man "gaily living in splendor every day." Gaily living? How was this man living gaily as opposed to in superficial pretense? David opines in Psalm 73 about his witnessing of the wicked being at ease and prospering while he himself is stricken and afflicted. There are many other examples of unbelievers finding joy in earthly things. They trust in money and fame and worldly achievements. Why is it thought that these things can't bring joy? It seems to me that often we don't try to understand those around us and simply rely upon some incomplete interpretation from our pet bible teachers. Unbelievers often see through this and discount our witness, while we think it's all their fault all along why they don't listen to us.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steve,

    I think you are correct in your observations. Most people are just not philosophically minded enough to really ask questions about ultimate meaning--and that includes most Christians.

    If you have a good job, a nice family, can take a vacation no and then, are respected and more or less healthy, and have things you enjoy doing (reading, golf, whatever), then why not feel fulfilled?