For Christian Teens: Getting Beyond the Unthinkable

I’m thinking of some tri-fold fliers to be handed out to Christian teens. Here’s a first approximation of one of them. Tell me what you think of it, what you’d add, take away, change.


What If … ?

When you think about it, it’s the nuances that have helped we humans advance. The search for all that stuff obscured by the standard wisdom, the common knowledge, the things every sane person knows.

Of course Man cannot fly! But what if a man could fly … just a teeny bit? The Wright brothers asked the question, and kicked off a race of invention and discovery that resulted in today’s passenger jets.

Lightning is overpowering and deadly. But what if there was a way you could catch a very little bit of lightning, and do something with it? Ben Franklin, among countless others, asked the question and helped us create today’s lights, computers, recorders, the Internet, and a million more things.

People are either black or white. Women should stay home and keep house, raise children, please men. Marriage means one man, one woman.

But what if there were other ways of looking at such things, ways that not only gave individuals greater freedom to be themselves but produced side effects that benefited the entire society?

Attuning yourself to nuance is one of the most important skills of thinking, the doorway between juvenile and adult attitudes about life. If you want to grow up at all, and gain at least a small amount of freedom of thought – the most basic of personal freedoms – you pretty much have to recognize that things are often more complex than you’re told.

Speaking of nuances: Between every dichotomy is hidden nuance. Yes and No obscure Maybe. Black and White overshadow Gray. Love and Hate draw attention from Indifference — and 50 other in-between feelings.

Yet even knowing that, every time we humans line up at the shouting wall between theism and atheism, we seem to end up yelling the same two arguments across it.

There is a God!

No there’s not!

And you’ve bought into it, haven’t you? You’ve aligned yourself on that one side of the thing, you think you’re perfectly justified in doing it, and you feel strongly that nothing else need be said on the subject. And maybe you’re even right.

How about this nuance though:

What if SOME of the ideas we have about God are wrong? What if God is a teeny bit different from what we think He is? What if some very small amount of what we think of as God is not God at all?

And beyond that: What might things be like – in the extremely unlikely, distant possibility – IF there was no God?

How could we live? How would we relate to each other? How could we be moral?

Notice: In asking such questions you’re not saying “There is no God.” You’re only asking “What would things be like if there wasn’t?”

If you look at the world around you, it turns out this “What if there was no God?” question has been asked in countless different ways throughout human history.

If there was no God …

… early medical researchers asked, “How could we fix an illness or injury?”

… geologists asked, “How might this particular rock have come about?”

… biologists asked, “How might eyes have formed in the various animal species?”

And in each case, without getting into the argument about whether or not a God existed, the very asking of the question turned up some useful answers.

Yes, you could still pray fervently for the intercession of God. But you could also do surgery to fix a diseased gall bladder or leaky heart.

Yes, you could still walk around in reverent wonder at the beauty of God’s mountains. But you could also figure out something about the forces of vulcanism and uplift, sedimentation and continental drift.

Yes, you could marvel at the splendid complexity of God’s wondrous creation. But you could also see how eyes worked, and how similar – or different – they were in eagles and elephants, insects and iguanas, monkeys and men.

The point is, the very asking of certain questions, even when you can’t find the one true answer, can often lead to new understandings, new possibilities.

The very asking of the question – WHAT IF there was no God? – leads to a whole range of new possibilities.

WHAT IF … there was no God?

Would you HAVE to rape and kill people? Or is there some set of common rules people could work out that might allow them to live peaceably together?

WHAT IF … there was no God?

Would you HAVE to lose all hope and decide that life is meaningless? Or might there still be things you’d want to do?

WHAT IF … there was no God?

Would you suddenly lose all love for your family? Would they suddenly lose all love for you? Or might you still feel strong positive feelings for them, and they for you?

WHAT IF … there was no God?

Might you still have hopes for the future, all the things you want to do, all the dreams you want to make real?

WHAT IF … there was no God?

Could you still live your life, work on the things that interest you, love the people you care about?

Yes. You probably could.

In fact, you should.

And maybe, in fact … You do.