Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Fallacy of the God Shaped Hole

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20 ESV)

How easily do we all fall into using common and often trite phrases without thinking of the theological statements behind them. Though some may see them to be quite innocent and not worth "over-analyzing," I would argue to the contrary.

The Bible compares the word of God to life giving sustenance or 'bread." The implication there is that words have an effect on the well-being of our souls. If the Word of God (truth) equates to a necessary and healthy spiritual diet, then what, consequently, do lies and falsehood equate to? And what about those phrases that aren't false but are the equivalent of "empty calories"?

Falsehood, lies and "empty calorie" phrases compare to nothing more accurately than poison. It is not, however, as though one eats a piece of bad fruit and gets food poisoning from it, only to have that poison flushed out of the system. No, instead it (lies and falsehood) gets into the system and stays there, slowly and most often stealthily killing its host. This poison effects the way we see and react to God, to others and how we view ourselves. It is like having one wrong line of programming in a computer program that throws the whole program out of whack. Though sometimes small in appearance, these lies are potent and have a deep and long lasting impact on our entire life.

There is one such lie that I would like to expose, and, hopefully, provide an antidote for. This lie looks innocent enough and some may argue it is really no lie at all. These lies, the ones that look far too much like the truth, are arguably the most dangerous and hardest to prove as lies. However, just as one little lie can cause big problems, so too can a little truth dissolve the lie and bring life to its recipient.

"There is, in all of us, a God shaped hole that only He can fill," is a phrase that most people have heard, especially those in the Christian world. The thrust behind the phrase is one that attempts to prove to others that there is a mysterious need or want within all of us that we try to fill with all sorts of things but ultimately can only be filled by God Himself. Though the phrase seems to communicate something about our need for God, I think that it insinuates things that are discreetly harmful to our relationship with God.

1) The first insinuation I see in this, is that God only fills one particular hole within us, and thus only satisfies one of many needs. The best illustration I can think of for this is the old children's toy that has various differently shaped holes with corresponding yellow pieces that fit into their respective holes. God, in this illustration, would be perhaps the star shaped piece. We, in the illustration, are the blue and red ball, and God alone can fit through the star shaped hole in us. Obviously we are in need of the star because the hole exists. Subsequently, however, we are in "need" of all the other shaped blocks and only those blocks can fill those holes. God, being a star, cannot fit through the hole for the circular shape. The implication here is that there is a need that God cannot satisfy.

This fact, that most Christians perceive God as fulfilling but one need in their lives, is well proven by the constant usage (if not verbally most at least think it) of the phrase "Yeah God, but..." Yes, God exists, and God is faithful, but... Can anyone finish that sentence for me to make it true, reasonable, logical or not heretical? Some might say this "Yes God, but we are human and in the flesh." To say that our sinful nature and humanity somehow negates and cancels out some part of the nature and promises of God is both illogical and ludicrous, not to mention it is in no way supportable by any text in the Scriptures. Our faithlessness does not cancel God's faithfulness. Instead of saying "Yeah God, but..." we should instead be saying "Yes this thing about my life is true, but God is/will..."

2) Secondly, nowhere in the Bible is there any implication that God fills some mysterious vacuum in our being. Instead, the Bible depicts man as being utterly sinful and in need of death and re-birth. There is not a single aspect of our life that does not depend on God's sovereign love and faithfulness. To think that we will finally feel relief when we "get God into our life," is a misrepresentation of the Christian life. With this sort of philosophy, one may "get God" in their life and never die to self, but instead think that their "self" is complete and not lacking.

The person who sees life this way, for one, sees that "self" the way it is is only lacking something. This person will not see the need for a death and re-birth, because to them the Christian life is about completion, not renewal. God, to many, is just an means to an end, the end being self-satisfaction and the placing of the "last piece of the puzzle."

God does not satisfy a part, but the whole. To perceive God as an entity that satisfies just one of many parts, is to all too often equate him to those other things that gives us some sort of quasi or apparent satisfaction. God is not just some other puzzle piece likened to many of our other desires. Instead God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is the whole--the All in All. God does not come in and fill a blank, rather he puts us to death as Paul refers to in Galatians 2:20, and He takes up residence inside of us changing our desires and fulfilling them all at once.

N. T. Wright in an interview with Tim Stafford for Christianity Today magazine (Jan 2007) says it this way

“… If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they’ve got, the God you end up with is the God shaped by the blank. The real God specializes in taking the blanks in people's lives and pulling and tugging and turning them into a new shape.”

What I think Mr. Wright is getting at here is that God is about the business of a new shape, or new creation. God does not just fulfill desires and fill holes, rather He changes our desires altogether.

God does not fill the hole, but instead becomes The Whole. Paul stated that it was no longer he that lived, but Christ living through him. There is a very real danger in trying to make God an addition to a life that we perceive simply needs such an addition, and that danger is death and damnation. Jesus says that unless we be born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Trying to "fill the God shaped hole" opens way to a life time of perceiving and wrestling with trying to keep God in that hole, and thus stay complete. It is not a small hole inside of us that cries out for God to fill, but our entire being screaming to be put to death and re-created.

We must come to see our lives as not being completed, but put to death and transformed into a new being with Christ intermingled within every part of who we are, obliterating old desires, making new ones and satisfying them all.

Buried With Christ

Buried with Christ and raised with Him, too, What is there left for me to do? Simply to cease from struggling and strife, Simply to walk in newness of life.


Buried with Christ and dead unto sin;Dying but living, Jesus within;Ruling and reigning day after day,Guiding and keeping all of the way.


Risen with Christ my glorious Head,Holiness now the pathway I tread;Beautiful thought from walking therein,He that is dead is freed from all sin.


Living with Christ, who dieth no more,Following Christ, who goeth before;Not under law, I’m now under grace,Sin is dethroned, and Christ takes its place.