That’s what I would call it. I’d had an ‘Existential Crisis’ before, and it certainly felt like one. This one didn’t feel quite so intense. Although I recognized the depth of the question to be the same kind of depth that caused my crisis back in my twenties – I wasn’t in quite so much of a panic this time around. I felt the capacity for panic, but not the risk of it. It’s hard to explain, but I think ultimately the difference was trust. I had been down this kind of road before, and last time God got me through. Better than that, the journey actually ended with God being more glorified in my mind than He ever had been before. So I wasn’t worried when this new line of questioning came my way. I acknowledged it. I realized I didn’t immediately have a solution. And I allowed it to be. I just let it sit. Let it hang there. I knew an answer existed, and it would come to me when the time was right.
The more recent question had to do with the nature of “prime reality”, or what reality naturally is without intervention. The issue my mind was wrestling with was the assumption that, all things being equal (meaning if nobody and nothing was getting any help from anything or anyone) reality would naturally lean toward complete nothingness, and that the existence of God was some sort of extremely fortunate aberration.
That question hung on my mind for over a month. I wouldn’t say it was a difficult month, but I was quieter during that time. At the same time the fact of having an unanswered question brought to mind its own question of ‘was I being prideful?’ Was this one of those things where I’m just supposed to accept that I can’t understand and surrender to God’s sovereignty? Well absolutely God is sovereign. I didn’t need the question answered or unanswered in order to have that perspective. To me, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that ignoring the question would have felt like a cop out. This question had been brought to my mind, and I felt a responsibility to acknowledge it and do it justice.
I had grown up with similar questions in my mind, and I had gotten used to thinking that I had to get rid of those thoughts because they would anger God. I think in the back of my mind I always worried that if God can read my mind, and he reads my mind as I’m wondering how it’s possible for him to exist, then he’ll go “Holy crap, he’s right! Where did I come from?” and then go in a corner somewhere rocking and sucking his thumb and then all of reality will crumble.
I suppose there was at least a bit of trust in play as well. It wasn’t so much that I needed to understand everything (because I had already drawn the conclusion that a finite mind can never fully comprehend an infinite God) but I needed to know that God understood His own existence. But I keep finding that when I go for nature walks, when I surround myself with His creation and see the work of His mind, He simply does not come across as someone who’s freaking out from an existential crisis.
Which takes me back to the question of ‘is it okay to be asking these deep questions about the nature of reality in the first place?’ To which I eventually drew this conclusion: If God is a God of order (as opposed to chaos), which I believe He is, and if when God created us He determined both our capabilities and our limitations, then if He has given us a mind that is capable of asking the question then He has also given us a mind that is capable of understanding at least part of the answer.
Again, to understand everything simply will never be possible for a finite mind. But I believe it is possible to understand enough to be satisfied. So if God allows the question, then at the very least a satisfactory answer must be possible. What is satisfactory depends on the individual. What is satisfactory for me may not help a mind that has been asking far deeper questions. More over, by realizing that my concern was at least partially a trust thing (wondering if God understood the answer Himself) then by ignoring the question I would be in fact saying to God “I don’t believe you have an answer.” So in fact, by allowing my mind to ask the question I was showing trust in God, even if the answer didn’t come for some time.
I wrestled with it for over a month before a phrase popped into my head. “Non-existence is less natural than God’s existence.” I’m sure a trained theologian could put it into more accurate words, but it seemed to be the phrase that I needed to get my mind looking at the dilemma from the right angle. Then God reminded me of something I had actually blogged about a few years ago in a post titled Hypothetical Theological Debate.
In Genesis it says “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” and then it says, “The earth was without form and void”. There’s something in this passage that I think a lot of modern readers miss. I was raised Christian, but I was also raised in a world of science which tends to approach everything from a naturalistic perspective. And as such, I somehow got it into my head that the emptiness that existed before Creation was something that had always been, and that God somehow ‘came about’ and made the cosmos out of the nothingness that was already there, which means God was somehow either existing alongside the nothingness or he was a product of it. What this verse tells me is that even the nothingness that a lot of us tend to think of as prime reality, this absence of existence, is in itself something created by God. God made an empty space in which to create things, he didn’t come into existence in an empty space and then make other things. God was, at one point, all there was. There was nothing that was not God. No earth, no heaven, no void, just God. Nothingness was not even a thing until God allowed it to be. Needless to say that changed my perspective.
I didn’t realize it until after, but what was happening was a kind of imaginary fight between God and Non-existence over the “throne” of Prime Reality. God won. He didn’t even have to try. It felt like it had been a battle, and I think I came away from it feeling the joy of victory because of that. God was triumphant. I don’t often get a personal sense of God being the mighty warrior that I know He is. It seems a bit odd that it would take something like this to make me more aware of it, but I’ve learned that intellectual study is one of my passions, so of course God would use that to reach my heart.
Love reading your thoughts, Bro. You are a wise man and a deep thinker. I think I get it 🙂 Never thought of God making the “nothingness” – that helps alot when contemplating the origins of all we see.
It really flips things around. I don’t think the ancient Hebrews had these kinds of questions because they probably didn’t come at the concept of existence from the same starting point of assuming something had to come out of nothing. That everything (including “nothing”) would all come from one already existing source may have been a more natural assumption for them than it is for us today.
Thank you 🙂