|Don't let the Post title throw you off, it's just a Latin translation of philosopher Rene Descartes', "je pense donc je suis" (c.f. "Discours De La Méthode", published by Rene Descartes in 1637). You're likely more familiar with the phrase when it is translated into English, "I think therefore I am".
Descartes came up with this axiom to prove (by way of argumentation) to himself (in an age of rampant skepticism) that he truly existed. His logic depends upon the proposition that in order to doubt his own existence, he must exit. It follows that only someone who exists can question his or her own existence.
I mean to highlight (by this example) the conceptual link between living and being.
As a Christian I do not believe that death annihilates my life or my being. Death just toasts the vessel that my life is presently tethered. But let's say I didn't have any certainty about these things, and was pondering these things with a secular mindset. It would seem to me in that case that whatever I am, the I that is me, would no longer exist the moment I died. Thus life and existence are functionally describing the same reality.
In John1:4 we read, "In Him [i.e. Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men". Later John expands this thought (c.f. John 5:26) in this way, "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself."
If you're biblically aware, you probably remember that the name God ascribed to Himself in Exodus 3:14 (when He appeared before Moses) was, "I AM WHO I AM". The first time I read it, it seemed alien and awkward. But as I have come to know the scriptures, and revere the God I have met in them, I find the name more than appropriate to describe that God in whom we live and move and have our being (as Luke writes concerning Paul's words in Acts 17:27-28, "...Yet he [i.e. God] is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed His offspring.'").
Have you ever thought about what it means to have your being in God?
In the quoted text the Apostle Paul beings to witness to pagan polytheists by reminding them that monotheism is neither controversial nor outrageous. Their most famous poets themselves were bearing witness to the notion, and weren't they at the time in the vicinity of a well known altar to an unknown God? Clearly Paul was using their poets and local superstitions to his advantage - making, by way of these things, an opening to preach to them the truth about God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ to the saving of their souls. But was Paul merely leveraging these things to make an opening, or was their some truth in what the poets had said?
I think the latter.
Caiaphas didn't intend (in John 11:49-50) to speak a redemptive prophesy concerning Jesus when he said, "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." Caiaphas was concerned that Jesus was just another messiah (small 'm') who would eventually provoke a rebellion that was doomed to end not only in failure and bloodshed - but likely with the dissolving of the Sanhedrin and any glimmer of Jewish governance. He wasn't thinking about God's redemptive plan - but the words He spoke concerning Jesus certainly gave prophetic expression to what was truly going on.
In the same way Paul doesn't ascribe to the poets from whom he quotes any special or prophetic knowledge, but rather remarks that even in their ignorance they spoke some truth - we have our being in God.
All of us live and move and have our being in God. We are all equally dependent on God for our being. He sustains all of us. By an ongoing act of His will - our lives continue. God didn't create the universe then stand to one side and watch it run by itself. From our perspective God is creating each new moment as it comes - while upholding the entirely universe in every place and every moment by an ongoing act of His continuing will. In Him, in a very literal sense - we live and move and have our being.
Would your estimation of the Christian God change any if you understood God as not only having set in place all physical laws - but as sustaining them throughout all creation moment by moment by the ongoing exertion of His will? What I am asking is if your estimation of God would change if you understood that all the physical laws of the universe continue to function because God is and has always been actively and continuously empowering their function moment by moment?
We've all had our day dreams about what it might be like if gravity suddenly stopped working, but what if the atomic force that hold atoms together suddenly stopped holding them together? What if all the matter in the entire universe simultaneously reverted back to the energy that God poured into the universe when He created it? Where would you be if all that energy simply and immediately returned to God?
To say that, "In God we live, move and have our being," is to recognize that God sustains (moment by moment) the existence of all things that continue to exist. It is God's innate "being" that sustains everything that exists. You may want to call it God's power, or God's will - but whatever the label may be, this essential attribute of God - His eternal "being" is unique to God. Neither the universe nor anything in it, can exist apart from God who sustains it by the unique essence of His being.
"I AM WHO I AM"
The God we worship is unique in an infinite number of ways - but consider this one facet: He alone has life and being, and He alone can and does sustains all life and being.
There is no life apart from Him and there can be no life apart from Him. There isn't really any distinction between His life and His being - both are just words used to describe His nature. God is that which is, and everything that is, comes from, and is sustained by, God.
It follows that anyone who has ever come to exists, does so by the life and being of God. God is life. To be alive at all (physically) is to be sustained by Him, and partaking of the life that He sustains - whether you're a Christian or not.
If these things are true, to reject God is to reject is life itself.
Rejecting God isn't merely the rejection of some proposition. To reject Him who is the source, substance, and sustaining agent of that which animates us day by day.
God is not an impersonal power or force. When the bible says that God is love, it isn't suggesting that God is an impersonal concept void of personality and all that goes with that. It is rather saying that God does not seek his own gain, but immutably seeks the gain of others. Once could describe it in this way: God serves Himself to creation, Himself being good, righteous, and Holy. The best thing God can give us is Himself.
God serves all of creation - causing the sun to shine on the just as well as the unjust, but this is just one aspect of God's being. He isn't merely love - He is life itself. we live and move and have our being within His life. Job 34:14-15 says it this way, "If he [i.e. God] should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust."
I want you to understand that as fully as you are able.
This isn't describing a life that can be lived independent of God
It is describing a life that itself is derived from and utterly dependent upon God's life - regardless of whether one believes in God, or honors God as God.
The person who denies God, is a fool, as the psalmist writes, because to deny God is to deny life itself...
Let me change the tone for a second.
The fact that we're here tells us that the origin of the universe defies the very laws that operate within the known universe. Either:
- The universe is eternal and has always existed in one form or another, or
- The universe is temporal and came into being when an outside (eternal) force caused it to come into being.
Some would argue for a third option (the universe spontaneously came into being without a cause) but that is an illogical and therefore an intellectually unsustainable opinion.
Whatever clever theories we may develop, they will all fit neatly into either the first (always existed) or the second (was started by some eternal, but external cause).
Christianity holds to the second view - that the universe began as God created time and space. It's weird to think in these terms, but God was not "in" time or space "when" He created time and space. We don't really any language tenses that work to describe events that took place "outside" of time and space - let alone to describe the existence of a being who exists apart from time and space.
God's name perhaps says more about his being that we can every put into words - He simply is. He is existence. He is being. He is life.
Nothing can exist apart from His life, and we who exist do so in dependence upon His life. Should God cease to be, all things would cease to be, including time and space.
I didn't come to Jesus because someone convinced me that God had done so much for me that I ought to worship Him. I came to Jesus because I became aware, not so much that I was condemned already before God, but that I couldn't reverse the condemnation through subsequent acts of righteousness.
The knowledge that latter day obedience does not, and cannot cancel out previous sin - such that my condemnation stood no matter how "good" I became; that is what drew me to Christ, I realized that I needed a Savior, since none of the good works I could ever hope to do would so much as cancel out a single sin amidst the millions I had already committed.
Like every other honest Christian - I found it difficult to worship God after I came to Christ. I was afraid that God hated me because I continued to desire sinful things and my obedience was sorely imperfect. I felt like a fraudulent Christian, and many times I begged God to save me *for real* this time - thinking and hoping that when I was really saved, I would know it because I would no longer desire to sin, and would suddenly love God so profoundly that my every breath and thought would give him the glory He deserved.
As I read the word, I became more aware of the gulf between the way I perceived God, and the way God presents Himself to the reader in the scriptures. He is righteous, and holy. He is awful in power and majesty - but He is the one working in me to will and do His good pleasure. I began to see how God has been drawing me to Himself, not with honey, or with warm thoughts - but with the revelation of Himself in and through His word.
I began to have a keen sense of my own legalism, and how it robbed me of true fellowship with God. I began to see God not so much as an angry father waiting to punish me when I sinned, but a father whose patience and tireless service towards me began to soften my heart towards him. Fear gave way a kind of shame. Shame to a kind of begrudging respect. Respect to appreciation. Appreciation to adulation. Adulation to Sorrow for this world, and to sharing in the work of my God and Savior.
I say all that, and even as I write it, I have to say, that I am not parked at the top there, but seem far too often to find myself on various road trips (some longer than others) through the valley that I have not fully come out of. But I do know this much - I live and move and have my being inside the being of God. I know from God's word that as my life conforms to His, I will know joy and peace - not dished out to me as "rewards" for my obedience, but rather as the true flavor and character of the life (His life) that I am finding myself drawn into.
I started out as a sinner who came to understand his own damnation, and having received grace to flee from the wrath (of God) to come, I called on the name of the Lord and was fearfully saved. Fear, in my case, was the beginning of wisdom, and while that fear was sufficient to keep me drawing near to Him - it melted into awe of, and a profound desire to serve, the true, living God - the Author of life. After all this time, I can say with Paul that I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Adding only this much - that nothing can separate me from the life of God either.