In the entranceway to one of the Catholic high schools where I used to teach there was a picture of Jesus that had a truly bizarre effect.  No matter where you stood, the eyes in that picture gave the impression that Jesus was looking right at you!  As you passed by, His piercing eyes followed you, as if they were penetrating into the depth of your soul everywhere you went.

A number of the kids I taught were terrified by that picture.  They thought it was creepy.  They cringed every time they walked by it. 

But the effect that picture gave points to a fundamental truth about God.  If He exists, then by definition, God is omniscient, all-knowing.  He sees you no matter where you go; no matter what you do.

For most of us, this is a huge TURN-OFF: God is a Moral Policeman, a Cosmic Party Pooper, watching our every move, ready to pounce the moment we step out of line. 

Prior to his death a few years ago, Christopher Hitchens was one of the leading (so-called) “New Atheists”.  This is what he said about the possibility that God might exist:

“I think it would be rather awful if it was true.  If there was a permanent, total, round-the-clock divine supervision and invigilation of everything you did, you would never have a waking or sleeping moment when you weren’t being watched and controlled and supervised by some celestial entity from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death…It would be like living in North Korea.”  (Christopher Hitchens, interview on Hannity and Colmes, Fox News, May 13, 2007, as quoted in Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2012, p.109.)

We naturally imagine God to be a kind of celestial dictator out to take our freedom away and impose His will on us; a tyrant who will diminish us and make us miserable.  As a result, we think of Him in terms of a Zero-Sum Game: if I give God fifty percent control over my life then I get to keep fifty percent; if God demands thirty, I get to keep seventy.  Then we desperately try to figure out the bare minimum we need to give God to keep Him off our back; or to get into Heaven; or to get something we want from Him, some blessing like an “A” on a test, scoring a touchdown, or a positive diagnosis.  

This kind of God isn’t only repulsive, He’s ridiculous. 

He doesn’t seem to have anything to do with any ultimate purpose that would make sense.  Instead, He sounds like something human beings would invent to manipulate or control each other, to make people behave, to keep them in line; or would project as a psychological delusion based on some primitive superstition.  This is why many atheists have rejected God.  It’s also why many others have rejected a personal God, turning instead to Eastern religion, New Age, astrology, or some other non-personalist spirituality.

If this is who God is, I don’t blame Hitchens or anyone else for rejecting belief in Him.  I would too!

In fact, atheists are often a lot closer to God than they think—by rejecting who God isn’t, they are one (giant) step closer to who God really is.

In John 10:10, Jesus says that he came that we might have life and life in all its fullness.  In John 15:11, he says that his teaching is designed to make His followers’ joy complete.  At the same time, He demands that we surrender everything to Him.  When we give up all our freedom for Him, he promises we will find THE fullness of life, COMPLETE joy.  Huh?? 

How can this be?  It sounds more like living in North Korea than finding our true bliss!

When I fell in love with my wife, a funny thing happened.  I wanted to be with her all the time.  So I gladly gave up much of my freedom and independence.  It was and is my joy.  See, giving up control, making compromises so I could pursue a relationship with her, didn’t feel like I was living in North Korea.  Quite the opposite.  Being with her was and is where I want to be, above all else; what I most choose to do—true freedom. 

That’s the power of relationships.  The more we devote ourselves to our beloved, the more we give ourselves to them, the happier we are.  The freer we feel. 

Which is the complete opposite of a Zero-Sum Game.

In fact, we are most miserable when we’re not in a loving relationship, when we aren’t devoting ourselves to someone we love.

Who’d want the kind of God Christopher Hitchens described to be true?  This kind of God would diminish us and make us miserable.

But the God of Jesus Christ is nothing like this God. 

With Jesus, the thing that is most essential to God’s being is love.

This is what makes Christianity unique—no other religion or worldview says that God is love. 

This is what drove Him to give all of Himself to us, becoming human and dying on the cross—there is no greater love.

And this is why He beckons us to surrender our lives to Him, to trust all of ourselves to Him.  Like any loving relationship—only this one is perfect and infinite—the more we give ourselves to Him, the more alive and joyful we will be.  The more we will discover the greatest love of all.

The kind of God revealed in Jesus isn’t ridiculous either. 

Love and relationships are what make life most meaningful; they go to the core of our existence.  Far from being an overbearing dictator, moral policeman, or cosmic party pooper, the God revealed in Jesus is all about loving relationship—which corresponds perfectly to what is most essential to our being.

He’s all about the one thing that is most significant in our reality.

The one thing that—if there is some ultimate purpose to life—makes the most sense.

So I beg you: don’t reject Jesus until you’ve fully examined the evidence.  Because, as the one who promises the greatest love of all, He is the God you’d most want to be true. 

I’d love to hear what you think about this.  Please share your comments on the “Contact E.J.” page of this website or post them on the Raising Jesus Facebook page.

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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