The first paper to run my column 25 years ago used to publish the biblical text of the Resurrection every Easter on Page One. Eventually, the text on Page One was shortened and continued inside. Then the entire text moved inside. Soon, the text will likely disappear entirely.
Let’s be honest. We are outgrowing the need for faith. We’ve outgrown God. We’ve reached a point in science, technology and sophistication where many believe we can out-God God. We can do arm and face transplants. We can fertilize human eggs in petri dishes. We can erase portions of human memory. We revel in the triumphs of science. Behold the wonder of treeless paper.
We can now hear, know and see almost everything – into the far reaches of the galaxies and into the thoughts and minds of our fellow man. We can slip apps onto smartphones that allow us to access someone’s every move, text, email and phone call. Omniscience has been redefined by Silicon Valley.
Our ability to understand the human condition is unprecedented. We have a reason, rationale, therapeutic explanation, statistical analysis and talk show for every rotten behavior under the sun. The notion of sin is anathema.
A headline on the Salon website proclaimed Christians, evangelicals in particular, synonymous with bigotry and abject stupidity. (How’s that tolerance thing working for you, Salon?) Faith is openly disdained in many quarters, an embarrassing relic to be purged from the public square.
And yet …
And yet there are times we’re not nearly as omniscient and omnipotent as we thought. Sitting beside a loved one gasping for life’s final breaths, stunned by the news on the other end of the phone or engulfed by the unimaginable, every fiber of our being cries out. Those anguished cries are rarely for science or statistics, they are the deep cries of a human heart pleading with God to make sense of the mystery.
Likewise, in parallel moments of beauty beyond comprehension – the incoming tide, the sunrise, holding the loved one who survived or embracing the prodigal who has returned – our hearts burst with thanksgiving and wonder in gratitude to God.
Maybe we haven’t outgrown the need for God after all. Perhaps we’ve simply filled what French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal referred to as every man’s “God-shaped vacuum” with creature comforts, distractions, ease and entertainment.
In places where creature comforts are scarce and oppression is routine, the need is more palpable. Reports from Iran are that as many as 1 million Christians now meet secretly in underground churches.
Practice of the Christian faith may not be as safe as it once was, but there was never anything culturally safe about Christ. So why does the Christian faith continue to grow? Pascal claimed that the God-shaped vacuum “cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”
This Easter, Christians circling the globe, in climates of both safety and danger, will celebrate with joyful voices and quiet whispers the cherished hope and promises of Christ.