By Bolanle Bolawole
In those days on campus at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, we were atheists who “preached” that there was no God. There couldn’t have been anything or anyone called God, we said. The whole idea of God sounded or appeared preposterous, especially when, we believe, no one could convincingly or conclusively prove the existence of God. We were convinced in the declaration of Karl Marx of religion as opium, a sedative used to dull the intellect of the gullible and make them captive to the unreasonable submissions of fellow mortals, making it easy for the mass of the people to be led by the nose by the religious bourgeoisie who feather their own nests while massively and mindlessly exploiting the people.
The history of the early Church did not help matters. The bestiality of the early Church leaders in enforcing compliance to doctrines that were an affront to commonsense; the rigidity that criminalized standing by or speaking the truth, burning the defiant at stake; the mind-boggling corruption of the time; the ease and impunity with which the Church leaders themselves stood God’s word on its head, leading a life of opulence while the mass of the people wallowed in poverty and deprivation, justified Marxism’s railing at religion as an instrument of oppression. For instance, early Church leaders justified the Slave Trade, depicting blacks as less than full human beings!
We might not have fully understood Charles Darwin’s “Theory of the Evolution of Man”; Darwin himself might even have left more questions than answers as he propounded his theory of apes as the ancestors of man but the fact still remains that the questions left unanswered by the theory of God as Creator of the universe were also mind-boggling, going even by the Bible’s own explanations. How plausible also is the theory of the big bang as the cause and source of creation?
Genesis 1: 1 says: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”. That, indeed, is the beginning of the problem. What is the beginning? When, where, how many years ago? Who created the beginning and where was he when he was creating the beginning? How and with what did he create the beginning? Science – commonsense or human knowledge – posits that you cannot create something out of nothing but scripture says God called things that were not as if they were and they came forth. This is really problematic and difficult for rational men to comprehend, understand, admit or accept.
It is not only darkness that has problems comprehending the scripture’s kind of thinking or explanation as stated in John 1:5 but rational Man also has a problem accepting the explanation of something coming out of nothing. A dictum of law is that no one builds something on nothing. Not so, God! If scripture is to be believed, God existed when no one else existed. He was when nothing else was. By sheer pronouncements, as we saw in the story of creation in Genesis chapters one and two, and which John 1: 1 – 3 confirms, he created all things – living and non-living.
Except we accept the rationality of Thomas Aquinas – “Believe in order to understand” – and then believe in what is called the revelation knowledge of God and of the things appertaining unto God – human knowledge will fail us if we rely on it to understand God and the things of God. If we choose like Peter Abelard to ask questions and receive convincing and conclusive answers before believing, we may never believe in the existence of God.
Whether God created Man or it was Man that created God had been an age-long postulation by philosophers. Scripture says God created Man in his own likeness and image (Gen.1:27) but one sage argued that it was because men wrote the scriptures that it was so stated. If animals could speak, they, too, would say God created them in his own image! Is it a mistake, then, that the symbols of many religions are animals or objects of Nature! Why are animals the symbol of the coat of arms of many nations? Why are national football and other teams named after animals? Some have also argued that Man’s curiosity coupled with a sense of insecurity led him to create and enthrone God for the purpose of imposing order in an order- less and difficult-to-fathom universe!
Apostle Paul says until we get to heaven before we understand so many things. It is then we shall see all things clearly. Here on earth, we see in part and understand in part. What we understand is minute compared to what we do not. And a lot of what we think we understand is revealed unto us by – of course – God! One scripture that ex-Gov. Ayo Fayose was fond of quoting refers to God as “Ijinle” (deep), “Awamaridi” (mystery), ti enikeni o le r’idi re” (unsearchable). That appears to me more like it. Since creation – however this was, whenever this was, and by who ever – man has grappled with understanding and imposing order on his environment. Much success has been achieved but a lot more still remains to be done.
By intuition, in dreams, through visions and revelations, man has come into contact with useful knowledge that has helped him subdue, dominate, and make his environment prosperous as commanded by God in Gen. 1: 28. Some say that dreams are foolish; my own personal experience is that they are not. Scriptures also posit that dreams, visions and revelations are some of God’s ways of speaking to his people. Pharaoh’s dream, for instance, and its correct interpretation by Joseph, saved the then known world from starvation and death. Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar failed to heed the message conveyed in their own dreams and paid dearly for it. Had Joseph, the carpenter, failed to heed the messages conveyed in his own dreams, imagine what would have happened to Virgin Mary or to the child Jesus!
Oftentimes I wonder about the very purpose for this world. Why are we here? What benefits do we derive from all our labours? Job 14: 1-2 says “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not” Whoever you are and whatever you are, a time is coming when no one would remember you or would even know that you ever came to this world. For instance, I cannot remember who my grandfather was or even point out his grave? Will my own great-grandchildren remember that I ever lived, not to talk of knowing or visiting my grave?
Each day I wake up and say my prayers, I feel pained as I begin to engage in the same routine. Has it ever occurred to you that each day we engage in the same routine? Sleep, wake up, pray, wash, eat, work, relax, enjoy yourself, sleep, wake up again – ad infinitum! Indeed, ad nauseam! What is this life all about? All the riches, wealth, fame, achievements, certificates, properties, positions, privileges – not a single one can be taken out of this world. We leave everything behind. Empty we came, empty we depart!
King Solomon’s Ecclesiastes chapter one, verse two to the end is worth taking to heart: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow”
In that we brought nothing into this world and will take nothing away; in that much wealth does not translate into much joy and happiness; in that we can only make use of a fraction of all that we may amass in this world; and in that we can never say for sure what becomes of all that we have amassed after our death, it makes no sense to amass wealth while we live, depriving others of the means and opportunities of living a meaningful life while in this world.
Another way of also looking at it is that amassing wealth is a disincentive to the children of the wealthy. Why must such children, born with the so-called silver or golden spoon in their mouth, struggle again when all the wealth they and their children’s children will ever need have been amassed for them by Daddy or Mummy? The rich and wealthy men and women of yesterday, whose names or stories we hear today, where are their children or grandchildren in the scheme of things?
To recap: There are still billions of people all over the world today who live their life unmindful of or disbelieving God’s existence. The Church leaders of today; just like those of old (or perhaps even more) are not helping matters. In their lifestyle of opulence in the midst of the penury of their teeming members; in the humongous corruption in their midst; in their keeping criminally-silent in the face of oppression; in their self-serving and vain-glorious sermons that stand the word of God on its head – they daily drive people away from Jesus and from eternal life. When such backslidden Church leaders (renegades or turncoats in Marxian terminologies) shall see Jesus face-to-face, what shall be their excuse?