by ProfDave, ©2021 

(Sep. 23, 2021) — In the West (and the Middle East), like it or not, we live in the shadow of the Almighty.  Even Atheism is a Judeo-Christian heresy.  Not sure about the rest of the world, but we have to deal with the concept of an invisible, infinite, eternal Being, the Abrahamic God.  We have to either accept or reject that Being.  If we choose to accept that Being, we accept a self-existent Will that defines all existence – including ours.  If we reject that Will, we choose to define our own existence by our own will.  We become our own gods.  It’s a pretty tough job, made more difficult by the fact that all the best choices belong to Him!

To accept the Almighty means we know where we came from, we have purpose and meaning in our lives, we have a standard for morality, and we have a destiny beyond death.  To reject the Almighty is to have none of the above.  We do not know why there is anything at all, not to mention the incomprehensible intricacy of the cosmos, of nature, of the human cell, AND of the human consciousness.  Our lives have no purpose and meaning accept what our biology dictates.  Our morality is determined by other people – and what we can get away with.  Our destiny is extinction. Somehow, our will and intellect has to supply the answers to all this: an order, a purpose, a meaning, a morality, and a destiny.  We must fill the shoes and carry the burden of God. Is that beyond your pay grade?

It is common to attempt to ignore the shadow, but that option combines the disadvantages of both alternatives.  When we think and behave as though there is no Almighty, we effectively take over some of His burden and prerogatives, so far as they apply to us, and a gap opens up between what we know and what we do.  Many times we try to be good without His help and we do bad without His forgiveness.  In other words, we are conscious of sin without being conscious of any solution for sin.  So, there is only one God and I am not Him.  Thank goodness!

Are you getting along without the Almighty?  Whether there is or there isn’t an Almighty God is, of course, a matter of fact.  He is or He isn’t.  But whether or not we believe makes an existential difference, regardless.  Those who believe find plenty of evidence for a transcendent Creator, while acknowledging that there is much that they do not understanding.  Those who do not believe choose to deny such evidence and claim to know there is no unseen or unknown.  How do they know that?

For those who accept the idea of the Almighty, there is a rational scheme behind the cosmos.  There is an order, a design and a purpose to everything, even if they do not know it yet.  Science is possible because consistency is expected across the material world.  There is meaning and value to human life which comes from above.  There is a right way to do everything.  Each person has a destiny – even beyond life itself.

For those who reject the idea of the Almighty, something else must be put in its place.  Without a Creator, everything just happens.  Everything comes from nothing by chance.  Life comes from chemicals by chance.  Intelligence and consciousness are chemical reactions – by chance.  Chance, of course, is not conscious or rational, not a thing at all but simply the name we give to events we cannot predict.  At all costs, non-material agency must be avoided. All things exist by cosmic lottery or popular opinion, understood by speculation or survey. There is no purpose, no right way. There is no meaning or value in human existence.  Life is a skin disease on a minor planet of a minor star lost in space.  A germ is a rat is a pig is a boy.  People are disposable, objects to be used and discarded if they don’t work out.  There are too many of them.  We must create our own meaning and worth and organize our own creation and our own lives by the force of our will.  Survival of the fittest.  There is no right and wrong.  There is no destiny except death and evolution.  Understandably, even good Atheists have trouble sustaining consistency.

How do we provide our own origin?  By imagination.  Only in the East can they believe that the world is an illusion (and they do not live that way, even there).  So, we assume that we are here (wherever here is) and the cosmos is real around us though we do not know how it got here.  Having left the details to scientists to imagine how chance can produce everything from nothing, we just say we came from our parents and move on. 

If existence is determined by impersonal natural forces (let alone non-existence) then nothing and no one has intrinsic value.  If our parents (without intrinsic value themselves) decide to value us for their own reasons, we will be OK – at least until society gets a hold of us.  Everything depends on being beautiful, useful or rare.  Nothing is rarer to me than me – the center of my universe – but to you there are too many useless old men cluttering the landscape. Are we feeling insecure yet? 

Are you god?  Are you the reason for the cosmos?  Are you the why behind the orbit of the earth?  Are you the reason for your own existence?  Other people’s existence?  Do you define life, death, birth and marriage by your own will?  It’s a big job in the West but somebody has to do it – if we lock out the idea of an Almighty Creator, there will be no inherent reason for anything, not even you.

The idea of the Almighty gives order and meaning to human life.  Different people invest the Supreme Being with different characters.  In Islam He is arbitrary and a bit capricious, in Christianity He is holy love, in Judaism He is just and consistent, but in all three cases He is deeply concerned with human life.  Everything derives its value, purpose and meaning from the idea of the Almighty, but especially mankind.  Because of His interest, mankind becomes sacred, and with mankind human birth, life, reproduction and even death.  That is why we have religious ceremonies for all of them.  Religion seems to have a particular interest in children, in marriage and in the family.  The idea of the Almighty loads every part of every person’s life with meaning.  Remove the Great Idea and the lights go out.

The idea of the Almighty gives an intrinsic value to things.  In particular, it makes people and relationships intrinsically sacred.  If there is an intelligent Creator, then creation and everything in it, including you and I, has a purpose.  If there is no Creator, if everything and everyone is here by chance, then there is no intrinsic value, nothing is sacred and nothing has a purpose. It is up to us – or the most powerful of us – to assign extrinsic value to things according to our taste and advantage.  Since all can play this game, the strong survive and the devil take the hindmost.

Notice that in a purposeful universe, purpose determines use.  In a purposeless universe, there is no right use.  We have to determine right and wrong for ourselves based on what?  Our desires? What other people think?  What we can get away with?  Once again, might makes right.

Ideas have consequences.  We have been exploring the consequences of the idea of an almighty Creator. I remind you that whether or not there is such a Being is a question of fact, whether we accept the grand idea or not.  But we are exploring the long shadow of that grand idea.

If we reject the idea of the Almighty, then the orbit of the earth is an accident, you are an accident, your being aborted or raped or robbed would be an accident, too.  Adam Lanza shooting up Newtown first grade was an accident, too.  Everything is an accident because there is no right or wrong.  Without the Almighty, there is no purpose and no moral law, because there is no moral law giver.

If we accept the Judeo-Christian idea of the Almighty, then the orbit of the earth is just right.  To abort or rape or rob you would be wrong.  Not to mention shooting up the school. There is an Almighty who set the orbit of the earth (for your benefit), ordered the reproductive process (for your benefit), set the inestimable value of human life and dignity (including yours), and established moral law (also for your benefit) written in our DNA and revealed to us in Scripture.  Unlike the earth in its orbit, unfortunately, mankind has been given the power to choose between right and wrong – moral responsibility.  So we can do wrong. Wrong has consequences, but God took upon himself the worst of them.

Are you getting along without the idea of the Almighty?  You come from nowhere, life has no meaning, there is no right or wrong, so where are you going? You can pride yourself in your realism: there is no pie in the sky bye and bye for you. What is your destiny?  Physical and mental decline and death? Getting rich and famous and dying with the most toys?  Living on in your children?  Evolving into some higher life form over billions of years?  Or humanity destroying itself in nuclear war or global warming?  No wonder the rich and famous o.d. on drugs and demand the right to assisted suicide.

On the other hand, the Judeo-Christian Almighty has bigger plans for humanity, plans that reach into eternity in His presence.  Our beginning, our destiny, and everything between is embedded in the providence of God.  This invests mortal life with deeper meaning the older we get.  “Though the outward man is perishing, the inward man is renewed from day to day.”  If you choose to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, it knocks the end out of your grave, too.  It is eminently worthwhile to continue learning and growing and building relationships to the last.  Death remains an ordeal, but it becomes a passage home. Yes, such people enjoy this world, but it is not their home.  The caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Not only the good things of this world, but its pain and tragedy are transformed in the shadow of eternal life – the shadow of the Almighty.

The shadow of the idea of the Almighty Creator is pretty shadowy in everyday life.  Most of us don’t think of it much.  Most of us say we believe in God and the majority call ourselves Christians.  Those who do not believe hardly ever consider where things came from, where they are going, what it all means or why they feel moral outrage when something bad happens.  But neither do many who say they do believe.

Let me say something outrageous.  Operationally, our god is not the Almighty Creator!  We have a vague belief that there was a Creator a long time ago, but He is not part of our family tree, nor does He superintend our daily lives.  We blame Him for natural disasters and personal tragedies, but He gets little credit for what goes right – like the air we breathe and the beauty of the sunset.  We make shift to make meaning in our lives out of pleasure, pride and things. When reality bites, we medicate. We determine right and wrong for ourselves, as if we are the moral lawgivers, judge and jury.    When we are wrong we redefine it as right.  We live as if we were ageless and immortal.  Nothing can happen to us.  “We’ll sing in the sunshine, we’ll laugh every day.”  Operationally, our god is us!  But there is still that Shadow.

I am surprised at myself.  I actually said “our god is not the Almighty Creator!”  You thought I was a staunch believer, and I guess I am – although I cannot really comprehend an idea that big.  Maybe I should have said “you?”  Are you trying to get along without the idea of an Almighty Creator?  There is a minority who openly reject the idea and the authority of the Almighty and particularly hate the cross and the name of Jesus.  Those are the folks who go around the country looking for crosses to uproot and morality to censure.

The majority of Americans say they believe in G/god. But which god? God as you understand him or as you prefer him?  No one can understand the Almighty Creator – except as he reveals Himself.  If you choose to reject or ignore that revelation, then “God as we understand him” is not God the Almighty, but an imaginary small ‘g’ god of your own creation.  So you are back to working out your own origin, meaning, morality and destiny.  Think about that.

What is your relation to the idea (and the reality) of the Almighty Creator?  Are you trying to replace Him with your own ideas?  Are you, in effect, trying to be your own god?  Either God is defined by Himself in revelation or by you.  If you claim authority over the Almighty to amend Him, you make yourself god, and not Him.  That is the long shadow of the Abrahamic Almighty.

If we have a Creator, we are not our own.  We belong to Him.  We are responsible to Him.  He sustains Creation.  He is the Lawgiver of all He has made, including us.  The shadow just got heavy!

Either you and your purpose is defined by your Creator or by yourself.  Whatever end you serve, that is your god.

Do you derive your existence from the Almighty Creator or from yourself?  Do you derive your purpose from your origin in the Almighty or from yourself?  Do you derive the meaning of your life from your purpose in the Almighty or from yourself?  Do you derive your moral compass from the purpose and meaning of life given by your Creator or from your own desires?  Do you have a compass?

There’s the rub.  Rebellion is part of human nature. Our desires clamor louder than reason or common sense.  They are more powerful in the foreground than long-term purpose and meaning in our lives.  So we shut our minds to the idea of the Almighty in order to do what we choose and reorder the universe to fit.  We take the ideas and values that are left over.  Unfortunately, in the West, the idea of the Almighty Creator owns all the best ideas and values.  He has a monopoly on right, truth and beauty.  When we reject Him, we choose wrong, fiction and ugliness.  He owns love, we choose lust.  He owns marriage, we choose promiscuity.  He owns children, we choose abortion.  He owns giving, we choose getting.  You get the idea.  And at the end of life, He owns destiny and we have nothing.  So what is it, meaningful life with the Almighty or death on our own terms?

Perhaps our world is insane.  We cannot escape the idea that there really is an Almighty Creator, giving us the best of all possible origin, meaning, purpose, morality and destiny.  And yet we reject the best of all possible in order to cobble together our own, self-referent imitations.  We fight against a real God in order to establish our own gods.

By doing so, we lose in two ways, existentially and metaphysically.  First, as this essay has been pointing out, the idea of the Almighty makes sense of life.  Without it, there is no guiding star, no horizon.  We are lost in time and space.  Our religion is a burden and our philosophy difficult – and most of us are not philosophers.  But secondly, it is more than likely that the Almighty is more than an idea, that a cosmic intelligence made the cosmos, established its operation, revealed Himself through Moses and the Prophets, and redeemed mankind in and through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If the grand idea is true, if redemption really happened, then to reject or distort it is to reject our own destiny, banishing ourselves from the presence of the Almighty.  And we know what the alternative is called.

Can you get along without the idea of the Almighty?  It hangs over our heads like a cloudy sky.  We reject it and deal with an empty universe without rhyme or reason and try to make sense out of it by our own might and main and imagination.  Or we amend it to fit our own tastes, constructing an imaginary spirituality, becoming in effect our own gods.  We draw what we like from the Grand Idea, a semblance of origin (impersonal and short range), a wish for a destiny, a framework of morality (with flexible content) but our own direction. Or we embrace the Grand Idea as reality revealed to us in the Holy Book, shaping our existence, our lives and our behavior in relationship to the Living God, who is far more than an idea.

Perhaps the best test of a worldview is the Job test.  Job was the main character in the oldest book in the Bible who lost everything in one day.  What happens when life goes badly wrong?  Any god, any worldview does fine when you are singing in the sunshine, as a popular song of the 80’s put it.  But does the meaning and purpose of your life hold up when it rains?  Or a tornado comes through?  Storms come to everyone and history shows that in the long run . . .  we are all dead.  Does your destiny, your hope, carry you through hard times, disaster and death?

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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  1. Greetings Dr. David W. Heughins

    I enjoyed your essay THE LONG SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY at The Post & Email, except for one statement concerning God: “In Islam He is arbitrary and a bit capricious,” God in Islam is not God. The Islamic god is Allah, and Allah is nothing more than a heathen moon god. Allah is unchanging and severe in his evil. Yes. EVIL! PURE EVIL! Muslims believe, and Islam teaches that Allah is the source of the Koran. I suggest you read
    I rest my case!

    Frederick William Dame
    Dr. rer. pol.; Dr. Phil.; D. Litt.;
    MA Eng.; MS Ed.; MA Int. Rel.;
    BA Pol. Sci.; Dipl. Cultural Relations.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your article David. Yes, too often, we make God in our image instead of submitting that we are made in His… and that the fact of His existence does not depend on whether or not we believe, but does determine our relationship to Him, now… and hereafter. Societies’ acceptance of the vague mentioning of “God” frequently and quickly dissipates upon the mentioning of “Jesus” whose historical record affords no accounting of violence (Mohammed) or offence against anyone except against those who professed to “see” while remaining blind in their sin.
    I am a ’72 graduate of Trevecca… received my DDS at Meharry Medical in ’77, and recently retired. My Dad and brother pastored approx 50 years in the Nazarene church.
    Blessings to you… keep writing