I believe it was Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut first to orbit
the earth, who upon his return assured the world that God most certainly
did not exist — because he, Yuri, had been in space and hadn’t see Him.
I suppose that many of us live our lives the way we do, because we look
for God in a similar way.
One of our enduring references to God is “the old man upstairs.” This
figure of speech implies that God is safely ensconced in heaven –
remote from any nasty brushes with daily human reality. He is like a
distant and powerful monarch, preserved by an army of loyal angels, and
there He controls the realm beyond human life — the place we go when we
The great problem with this view of God is that it causes us to live
our lives as if it were true. Religion or “faith” are reserved for
Sunday mornings, or once or twice a year on Christmas and Easter. What
we say we believe has little impact on how we live our lives, because,
well, we are here, and God is somewhere “out there.”
Many, of course, do not share this theologically-challenged view of
God. For them, God is close and intimate. “He lives within my heart,”
they would reply. Unfortunately, as Dallas Willard observes in his book,
“The Divine Conspiracy,”
- ‘In my heart,’ easily becomes ‘in my imagination.’
So where does your God live? If God isn’t the old man upstairs,
and is not confined to the boundaries of the human heart, where is He?
Dr. Willard suggests that to help answer that question, we consider
where “we” are. His answer is that “we” are spiritual beings that for
the moment have physical bodies. “I occupy my body,” writes Willard,
“but I am not localizable in it or around it. … If you wish to find me
(my personality) the last thing you should do is open my body and take a
In answering those who would reply that “we” exist in our brain,
Willard describes the scientific institute in Moscow where the brains of
great Communist leaders were preserved for study. “Of course, they
(scientists) found nothing of personal greatness there,” Willard writes.
“To be sure, the brain is a relatively important and interesting piece
of flesh, but nothing of intellect, creativity, or character is found in
Yes, our bodies are a part of “us” Willard explains; we react with
the physical world through our bodies, and they are a part of who we
become — but they are not the whole story. We express our will through
them — and sometimes beyond them — as when we arrange the furniture in
our home or apartment. “Now, roughly speaking,” writes Willard, “God
relates to space as we do to our body.”
What Willard is saying is that God inhabits space — as we do our
bodies. Every point in the universe is accessible to His consciousness
and will — which He has and uses. The manifestations of God described
in the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, are just that: temporary
views of God’s consciousness or will expressed at a momentary time and
place in history. Such a view of God, of course, shatters all human
illusions of power and control. There is nothing beyond such a Being’s
grasp — and no one can stand against His will, when He chooses to
Does this view of God tell us something about ourselves? I suspect
that it does — perhaps more than we are comfortable knowing.
It certainly highlights the absurdity of much of the current
political debate about excluding God from the public schools or the
halls of government (for the inside view, read Psalm 2). Some reading
this column may see this as a rather radical departure from contemporary
views of God. It is, in fact, the original Christian view, as understood
by those who wrote the New Testament. It is the view that Jesus taught.
And it is the view that Paul later expounded to the Greek philosophers
on Mars Hill when he said, “For in him (God) we live, and move, and have
our being. …” (Acts 17:28).
It is the view that many of us have forgotten or neglected, churches
have failed to teach, and which in the end may help to explain the
schizophrenic lifestyles and spiritual poverty that plagues so much of
our modern day world.