On the Non-Necessity of Man

One of the deepest desires of the human heart is the desire to be needed.  We want to know that we are important.  Depression sets in when we feel like another replaceable cog in the great machine of life, be it work, our communities, our families or any other important group.  What stronger sentiment can be given about your worth than someone saying “I need you”?

And yet, in the eyes of God, this is not quite the case.  I remember being confronted with this back at university.  I had a professor who subscribed to something called “process theology.”  Essentially it is the view that God may be our Creator, but he is not perfect.  He still needs to grow and develop.  That is why he made us.  God needs us so that we can add to His love and glory.  We contribute to God something that He needs, and He in turn takes care of us.

When I pressed my professor as to why he held this view, he said to me “Because if God doesn’t need us, than we are not important to God.”

From a human point of view I can understand what he meant.  I would hate to think that my presence is so obsolete that my wife could get along fine with or without me.  In our lives, our love for others often takes the form of an attachment so strong that it can no longer be categorized as a desire, but a need.

C.S. Lewis spoke about this in his book The Four Loves.  He said that one of the ways you can categorize love is into “Need Love” and “Gift Love.”  He used the image of mother taking care of a small child.  The child’s heart is completely filled with love for the mother, but it is based on need.  The child depends on and clings to his mother for his very existence.  The mother loves the child, but her existence would go on with or without that child.

As humans, we are never completely free of “Need Love.”  But that is our nature.  We are not self-sustaining.  We need others and we need God.  We form friendships and marry not only out of selfless care, but because it fulfills us in ways that we find difficult to describe.

The problem with process theology is that it projects this weak human nature onto the Eternal God.  The Catholic faith teaches the exact opposite of the belief of my professor:  God does not need us.

Human beings are not necessary parts of the universe.  In fact the universe is not a necessary thing at all.  The only thing that must exist is Existence Itself (and as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “That thing we call ‘God.’”).

God was perfectly happy in Triune Self.  What could God lack?  The Father loved the Son and gave everything to the Son, Who in turn gave everything back to the Father and that love was so intense it was the Holy Spirit.  Before the universe (if you could speak in such terms) God was perfect in Himself of Love with Love in Love.

But if God was perfectly happy, why make us?  God, being all-knowing, would foresee that man would fall, constantly turn from Him, and eventually He would have to become one of us to suffer horrible death on a cross just so that we could have even the chance to be saved.  I can understand any human struggling with understanding a motivation.

When we take on great tasks, it usually only with the greatest of rewards in mind or the deepest of needs.  Frodo takes the ring to Mordor only because it is the only way to save his home.  Indiana Jones only goes after the Shankara stones because they’re “fortune and glory.”  What could motivate you to leave perfect comfort and peace to enter into the depths of ultimate suffering?  I would daresay most of would say that we would do so only if we had a great need.

But God has no need!  That was what my professor could not understand.  He thought God was like us and that His love was less if it was not a needful love.  But that blinded him to the even greater truth.

God is the perfect embodiment of “Gift Love.”  God gets nothing out of making us.  But that isn’t why He made us.

True and perfect love is pure gift.  We touch on it sometimes in our lives, but we only really experience it when we let the Spirit live in us.  That love is one that gives and asks for nothing in return.

Remember the words of Paul in Romans:

For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly.Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath.  Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  -Rom 5:6-11

And here is the key that will unlock the great mystery of happiness: we are important to God because He has no need of us.  Or to put it another way, there is no need in God, only gift.

As I wrote at the beginning, we humans hope that we have value and are needed.  But we are scared that we are not because we make the same mistake that my professor made: we equate being needed with being important.

But God does not love us because He finds us useful.  He loves us anyway.  We never have to be scared of God ceasing to love us because there will never be a cause for it.

God made you not for His sake, but yours.  He create vast expanse of the universe not for his own aggrandizement but for your existence.  You will never outlive your usefulness to God because He never needed you.  He will never stop loving you because He is Love.

He created us because His joy and His love overflows and He wanted others to share in that joy.  Everything God made reflects that joy.  “The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder’s craft.” Psalm 19:2

But they could not experience that joy.  Only a fully free, rational, feeling being could.  So he made the angels and he made us.  He made us for joy.  He made us for love.

Copyright © 2013, W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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