I am very fortunate in that I get to share the best part of my week, the beginning, with a great group of people and recently during our weekly get together a very interesting question was asked by a person in our group most would consider to be a very logical, very intelligent person who has experienced what could arguably be considered their fair share of successes in life. This person basically wanted an explanation, an understanding, for lack of better words if you will for a person, someone like the average everyday Joe who is able to be successful in life without believing, placing faith in, or following God. Until that point I honestly had really never given it much thought. I mean the world is broken, man fallen, if you follow the practices, principles, and adhere to the standards laid out by the world it is very possible and more than likely for you to realize the very real, albeit temporal success as it is defined by the world. This question of being or experiencing success without God is an interesting one indeed, one that deserves much more conversation than this post can do it justice. With that said here are some thoughts to ponder.
Today I spent a little time reading a few writings of heretics, motivational speakers, philosophers, gurus, and the like. I noticed that many of them are using scripture even in some cases taking ownership and claiming them as their own teachings. Ironically, what has happened is the world has caught on to the idea that the great teachings and principles originating in the bible work when applied in a person’s life. This should not be alarming after all God’s Word is true. He created all, including the familiar law of nature that it rains on the just and the unjust the same; He implemented seedtime and harvest. His word teaches that “whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.” However, being a Christ follower is not a prerequisite for practicing these often life altering principals. Therefore, many practice these ideologies, aside from the true God who created them, and seem to have great success in doing so. Some people even act as though they came up with these philosophies themselves. It’s indicative of human nature, to not want someone else telling us what to do with our lives, we just want the benefit of the blessings.
I beg to differ with those who say, “you cannot have a successful life without God.” I dare to say, oh yes you can. According to The world’s definition of success, many people now and in times past, have lived their entire lives enjoying a decent, even a very good life without God. They are well educated, they have a great career, total financial freedom, a great family, they travel and are privileged with many other enjoyments of life. The American investor, businessman, and philanthropist Warren Edward Buffett is one of the most successful investors in history. In 1999, Buffett was named the top money manager of the twentieth century in a survey by the Carson Group, ahead of Peter Lynch and John Templeton. In 2007, he was listed among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. In 2008 was ranked by Forbes as the richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of approximately sixty-two billion dollars.
There are some believers who in an attempt to scare fellow Christians away from being able to seriously doubt their Christian beliefs, say that “Without God, life is absurd. Yet, there are many people who are living happy, fulfilling, moral, and highly meaningful lives much like Warren Buffet that simply do not subscribe to a belief in God. There are many people who have high moral and ethical underpinnings, yet have no belief in an unseen divinity. They have struggled with a few life tragedies, not all different from the rest of us, but they get by and continue on. They are even impressive on how much they love and care about others and give of their time and money to help humanitarian efforts in their communities or around the world.
What if the people who do not believe in God are correct? Well, let’s examine that concept for a moment first this would mean disastrous consequences for human existence, society, and culture if, being a follower of Jesus and pursuing God should prove to be false. If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death a finality if you will. Compared to an infinite stretch of time or eternity, the span of man’s life is but a miniscule moment so brief it is even described as a vapor. If each of us simple passes out of existence when we die, then what ultimate meaning can be given to our life? Does it really matter whether we even existed at all? It might be said that your life was important because it influenced others or affected the course of history. But this shows only a relative significance to your life, not an ultimate significance.
Then there is the universe facing a death of its own. Scientists tell us that the universe is expanding. As it does so, there will eventually be no light at all; there will be no heat; there will be no life; only the silhouettes of dead stars and galaxies and it will make no difference whether the universe existed or not because it is doomed to die anyway. Therefore, it is without ultimate significance. The same is true of the human race. Mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe. Because the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no ultimate difference whether it ever existed. Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of bees or a pack of wolves, for the end is all the same.
Eternity alone is merely a duration of existence and does not make that existence meaningful. If man, and the universe could exist forever, and if there were no God, their existence would still have no ultimate significance. If God does not exist, we could go on and on and still be void without meaning. We would still ask of life, “So what is it all about?” thus, if there is no God, life becomes meaningless. If life truly ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether you have lived as a devil or as a saint. Since your destiny is ultimately unrelated to the belief, or circumstances driving your behavior, you may as well just live as you please.
But this is a much deeper problem that becomes even worse. If there is no God, then any basis for objective standards of right and wrong simply evaporate. Moral values become nothing more than mere expressions of personal taste or by-products of sociobiological evolution and conditioning. In a world without God, there is no basis for anyone to say which actions are right and which are wrong. This means it becomes all but impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. On the other hand no one could praise brotherhood, equality, and love as good. For in a universe without God, good and evil simply do not and would not exist – think about it there would only be the bare valueless fact of existence, there would be no one to say that anyone is right while the other is wrong.
Now let’s suppose on the other hand life does not end in death. However, without God life would still be life without purpose. Man and the universe would be nothing more than simple accidents of chance, thrust into existence for no reason whatsoever. Without God, our universe is merely the result of a cosmic accident, an unintended explosion. There is no reason for it to exist and humans are nothing more than freaks of nature, a blind product of matter plus time and coincidence. Humans are nothing more than a lump of goo that somehow evolved in a rational fashion alongside an all but irrational universe. Leaving no more purpose in life for the human race than for that of a species of insect; both being in the same boat only the result of some visionless interaction of chance just short of necessity.
If death stands with open arms at the end of life’s journey, then what is the whole goal of life? Is it all for nothing? What about the world in which we live is it all for nothing? If its destiny is nothing more than a cold grave somewhere deep in the recesses of outer space, then the answer must be a resounding yes it is all pointless. There is no goal, no purpose for life, or for the universe because after all there is no God.
Man can not at peace with his fellow man because he is not at peace with himself. Man is restless with himself because he has no peace with God. The pursuit of pleasure for pleasure’s sake is a sign of inner turmoil. Pleasure seekers throughout history have found over and over that the temporary diversions of life give way to a deeper despair. The nagging feeling that “something is wrong” is hard to shake off. King Solomon gave himself to a pursuit of all this world has to offer, and he recorded his findings in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Solomon arguably the wisest man ever discovered that knowledge, in and of itself, is futile at best – Ecclesiastes 1:12-18. He found that pleasure and wealth are futile- Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, materialism is folly (2:12-23), and riches are fleeting- Ecclesiastes Chapter 6. Contrary to the claims of atheists and agnostics through the centuries, man cannot live without God. Man can have a mortal existence without acknowledging God, but not without the fact of God. Solomon concludes that life is God’s gift (3:12-13) and the only wise way to live is to fear God: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (12:13-14).
In other words, there is more to life than the physical dimension. Jesus stresses this point when He says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Not bread (the physical) but God’s Word (the spiritual) keeps us alive. It is useless for us to search within ourselves for the cure to all our miseries. Man can only find life and fulfillment when he acknowledges God.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.” – Psalm 14:1
Yes, in the eyes of many there are “good people” in this world, good people who do not believe in God, but similar to the rich young ruler found in Luke 18: 18-30, there is just one problem, one thing they lack and that one thing is the greatest variable that makes everything else worthless.