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Why Bother with God?

Written by Dan Paterson, Australia 

Dan Paterson is the founder of Questioning Christianity and is based in Brisbane, Australia. An ordained pastor, Dan speaks regularly to audiences on how the gospel connects to life’s biggest questions and on the popular objections to the Christian faith, particularly on the question of suffering. Dan is married to Erin, and they have three young sons, Josiah, Zachariah, and Seth.

I was once what you might call an apatheist. Where atheists are often committed to denying God’s existence and Christians to defending Him, apatheists are relatively happy to keep the God question at arm’s length.

As a youngster, I didn’t understand the relevance of the Christian story, especially given that my life was going along fine without God. At that point, no one had ever given me a serious reason why I should bother with God.

But just because I did not know any serious reasons does not mean there were none.

What eventually woke me up from my apatheism was the search for answers to some big questions in life. A car accident in my childhood, where my mum suffered serious head injuries and brain damage, showed me the fragility of life, and I wanted answers that would make sense of my search for meaning and my protest against evil and suffering.

That was when I came to read the Gospel accounts about Jesus for myself, and was taken by how they spoke to my questions.


A few reasons to rethink apatheism

Having become a Christian, I am now aware of good reasons to rethink my former apatheism, and if I could go back in time to talk with my teenage self, here is how I might encourage him to take a fresh look at God and the Christian story.

First, countering the misconception that Christianity is a primitive myth for non-intellectuals, I have found that God and the Christian story make surprising sense of everything we see in the world.

Consider the deep questions that are an inescapable part of our human experience: Why is there something rather than nothing? What explains the rational order of the universe? Who are we as human beings? Why are we here? Where do our consciousness and free will come from? Why is right, right, and wrong, wrong?

From a secular standpoint, many of the richest parts of who we are and the universe we observe remain either unexplained or are explained away as nothing more than illusions: We have impulses to hope for life beyond the grave, but secularism dismiss these as pipe dreams. We sense that our minds are more than just our brains, which secularism tells us are merely chemical illusions. We believe that some things are truly right and others wrong, yet secularism would have us discard these objective moral categories and reduce ethics to nothing more than a personal preference or a social contract.

But the Christian story offers the foundational answer—that behind our material universe lies an eternal mind, and that human beings are purposefully made in the image of God—the very God who gives us the impulse to hope for life after, the intuition to believe that our minds (souls, spirits) as more than our physical bodies, and the ability to recognise truth—right and wrong—outside of our personal preferences.

The explanatory power of God and the Christian story is what prompted C.S. Lewis, who converted from atheism to Christianity, to write this insightful line: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

In effect, Lewis argues that we should take the Christian story seriously because of the way it sheds light on our reality. Perhaps this is one feature of what Jesus meant by His claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12).

A second reason to rethink apatheism is that, clearly, there is something seriously wrong with the world. Simply scrolling through our newsfeed is all the evidence we need to know that the train of this world has gotten completely off the tracks.

And where every big story, religious or secular, tries to address the fundamental problem with fixes, the Christian story offers a unique answer.

According to Jesus, the heart of the human problem is the problem with the human heart. That having been created for good by God—to love God and love others—we have all become damaged by evil.

To borrow a phrase from Russian novelist, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, when we look deep inside, we discover that the dividing line between good and evil passes through every human heart, such that none of us are wholly innocent.

It is easy to call out the injustices in our society or to point our fingers at what other people do wrong, but the truth is, we all have another side to us, a shadow side. None of us live up to whom we want to be, let alone who we were created to be. Each of us contributes to the evil in the world through what we think, say, and do.

The Christian story explains how this happened through the story of the fall, when humanity sinned and rebelled against God’s good design. In turn, our desires have become distorted, our relationships, fractured, our harmony with the environment, gone. The fallout of our collective failure is seen in the very real suffering across our planet.

And as much as we might feel fine right now—untouched by suffering and despair—Jesus’s prognosis is that our evil is terminal (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Sin leads inescapably to death, and judgment thereafter. Only Jesus holds the cure for our terminal human condition.

This judgment sounds heavy, but it is in the context of being totally seen, warts and all, that we discover just how loved we truly are by God (Romans 5:8). For when we were indifferent, even hostile, towards God, He demonstrated the depths of His love for us (1 John 4:10). To save us from our sin and the judgment we deserve, Jesus purchased atonement through His agonising death, opening the door for our reconciliation with God.

I cannot imagine, after hearing that someone would suffer and die for me to save me, that I would not feel moved and grateful for that kind of sacrifice. If that were the case, it would only further confirm that there is something seriously wrong with my heart.

And through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus extended the only cure for our condition—offering us resurrection into eternal life with God in the new creation to come.


If you have yet to believe the Christian story  

Christianity claims something you may not yet believe, but because of the seriousness of the claim and the potential that it is true, it’s necessary for you to investigate.

Imagine if a doctor has told you that you have terminal cancer. You might not yet know that, or even believe the doctor, but such a potential diagnosis from a respected person should compel you to get a second opinion.

Therefore, a huge reason why you should care about God and the Christian story is that, if Christianity is true, then eternity is literally on the line. Nothing could possibly matter more.

One final reason to rethink apatheism is that the deepest parts of our souls long for intimacy with our Creator. You and I were made for a relationship with God, who is far better than anyone or anything else that we have.

The book of Ecclesiastes explores the insights of a king who, like many in our world, tried to fill that God-shaped hole with someone or something else—romantic and sexual exploits (women), vast projects (work), riches accumulated (wealth), and pragmatic insights gained over the years (wisdom). After having experienced the best of everything, his conclusion was that none of it ultimately satisfies.

If this is all there is to life, in a godless universe where death will simply wash away our existence, then anything—everything—we do is meaningless.

When Jesus came to earth, He described Himself as the bread of life (John 6:35) and as living water (John 4:14). He alone can satisfy these deep soul hunger at the core of who we are, which is why He spoke of Himself as coming to offer us life to the full (John 10:10), infusing meaning and beauty into life in a way that cannot be robbed from us.


This article was originally published here on Questioning Christianity. This version has been edited by YMI.

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