So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)
[You may receive an e-mail with this update, which is an edited version of the post from August 12. I am adjusting blog posts to line up with Facebook posts. After next week, the timing will be the same. For the record, I like this version better.]
We need a little pre-work before we jump into the verse this week. This verse falls at the end of several passages where Paul talks about the trials and hardships that he and the other Apostles had faced. He explains to the Corinthians that they endured the hardships by focusing on the eternal. Paul doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining why focusing on the eternal is important. So, let’s start with that question. When dealing with our daily trials and hardships, why it is important to decide what is eternal?
Taking the 50,000-foot view, there are two possible answers to the question of what is eternal: God or stuff. I was a college student when I began to think seriously about this question. I didn’t think it was possible to know if God existed, so I began considering the world from the position that physical matter has always existed and will always existed. I wasn’t ready to live in Stuff is Eternal, but I wanted to visit for a while to see what it was like. Let’s go there together for a few minutes.
Early on in my visit, I found there are some big problems that the folks living in Stuff is Eternal needed to solve for their view of the world to make sense. These are three problems that perplexed me. First, the “big bang” theory (the explanation for the current state of the universe and not the television show) is a big problem for them. According to the theory, the universe had a starting point 16 billion years ago and has been expanding outward since. For the big bang theory to work, the stuff in the universe needs to stop expanding and contract so that the big bang can repeat itself and continue to do so in an ever-repeating cycle. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be enough matter in the universe for gravity to slow the expansion and cause a collapse. This realization has led to the search for “dark matter” which will provide the additional gravitational pull needed to stop the expansion. It has also led to other explanations for how matter has come to exist. Do the folks living in Stuff is Eternal have any proof dark matter exists? No, but I would need to believe it exists if I wanted to live in Stuff is Eternal because it is necessary to support their view of the universe.
The existence of life is a problem in Stuff is Eternal. The view until a thousand or so years ago was that life was created by God or the gods. No one considered where life may have come from if there is no God. At first, the folks living in Stuff is Eternal thought the answer was easy, life happened by some happy accident when the right collection of chemicals got together in what they called a “primordial soup.” Life began as a simple one-celled something that reproduced itself and evolved over time into the vast array of plants and animals we find on Earth today. That seemed like a good response until they found out how difficult it is for life to “happen.” Whether life first “happened” on Earth or someplace else and was eventually transported to Earth by a meteor or alien space craft, they have found the odds against life simply happening are astronomical. No matter, the folks living in Life is Eternal told me, if I wanted to live there, I needed to believe that life just happened.
Finally, regardless of how people came to exist, there is no dispute that people have a strong belief about what is morally right and wrong. It is right to tell the truth and wrong to kill people, for example. The folks living in Stuff is Eternal believe in moral right and wrong so strongly they have developed laws to reflect their views of morality and punish people who don’t agree with them. This was the biggest reason I couldn’t live in Stuff is Eternal. I am not smart enough to weigh in on the contraction of the universe or on the origin of life. But, I lived with moral decisions every day. I learned that in Stuff is Eternal, what people consider “moral laws” aren’t really laws at all. They are practices that have developed over time to protect human existence. They have agreed as a group to enforce their moral beliefs on everyone for the sake of preserving their view of how life should be. This wasn’t even a matter of believing in some unseen thing or occurrence, it is a dressed-up version of a brute force, might-makes-right morality.
I decided after a while that I couldn’t live in Stuff is Eternal, because it would take as much faith in the unseen and unprovable to live in Stuff is Eternal as it did to live in a world where God is eternal. Was it a “leap of faith” to believe God created the heavens and the Earth and God was the creator of life? Yes. But, no more than believing the universe will continue to exist and life created itself.
I was, stuck. I began by thinking it took too much faith in the unprovable to believe in God and found that it would take too much faith in the unprovable to live in Stuff is Eternal as an Atheist.
Next week, I will tell you how this has resolved and why Paul believes it is important. I hope telling about my visit to Stuff is Eternal will help you or someone you know who is living there now. For next week, I will leave you with a question to consider, “What do you believe has always existed, God or stuff?”