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When God’s Authorship of Creation is Denied


Your perversity is as though the potter
were taken to be the clay:
As though what is made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me!” (Isaiah 29:16)

These words are as pertinent today as when they were first spoken by the prophet Isaiah (ca 740-681 BC). If there is a God today, then he remains little more than a projection of human consciousness, readily revised at will. In a talk delivered in 1946, “Existentialism is a Humanism,” Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) posited God’s non-existence in formulating his now famous phrase, “existence precedes essence.” Essence here is what defines a man or woman, what determines them to be who and what they are and have become. Sartre explained, “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world—and defines himself afterwards.” He begins as “nothing… [and] will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it.”

The self-designing worldview wherein there is no God is familiar enough today amidst the fluidity of gender ideology and the makeover marriage received in Obergefell vs. Hodges. But there is a subtler side to Sartre’s phrase, “existence precedes essence,” namely, the presumed conflict between God and the human condition at a fundamental, metaphysical level of reality. In fact, so pronounced is the conflict that Sartre’s humanism requires atheism; there can be no a priori laws (like the decalogue) or values (honesty, goodness, integrity) to which the human condition is beholden in advance. If there were, it would constitute “a self-deception” whereby “I am in contradiction with myself if I will these [a priori] values and at the same time say that they impose themselves upon me.” God and the necessary freedom for determining one’s essence cannot coexist. Yet man and woman are free to make something of themselves and, therefore, the conclusion follows: God does not exist.

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