Creator God and Created Universe: Personal vs. Impersonal

For several years, I’ve noticed comments that begin something like, “I think the universe is telling me…” This has always struck me as bizarre because the universe is, in fact, very cold (in more ways than one!), uncaring, and impersonal. However, I have come to understand that these comments are a reflection of the deep desire that people have to give their lives meaning and purpose.

Over the past three months, I have been gathering examples of this kind of comment; I’ll start with this group of four:

  • Phoenix University TV commercial: “Ever get a sign the universe is trying to tell you something?”  
  • Gary to Maggie on the TV show A Million Little Things: “It just feels like maybe the universe is trying to tell us something.” 
  • Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Just After Midnight: “It’s like something in the universe would see that it was just too wrong for us [teen girl and horse] to be apart, and make sure it didn’t end that way.”
  • My neighbor: “I’m considering the pandemic over until the universe tells me otherwise.”

The first two are essentially the same in that they are said in a rather general sense. The next two are very specific–one regarding a girl and her horse, the other regarding the pandemic. Now, if you substitute “God” for “universe” into those statements, what do they sound like? Here’s the first one: “Ever get a sign God is trying to tell you something?” That sounds pretty Biblical if you’re a believer!

Here are two more comments by two actors, each with their own brand of uniqueness:

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: “Human beings can love and laugh and enjoy each other’s company because we are afforded this space and luxury by a planet that cares for us.”
  • Jabari Banks: “I always say, if you ask the universe or God for something, they’re gonna send it your way.” 

In the comment by Chiwetel Ejiofor, he uses the word “planet” rather than “universe.” Much more significantly, however, notice the phrase “that cares for us.” That’s taking it to another level, to put it mildly. Now, if you substitute “God” for “planet,” the last phrase reads: “by a God that cares for us.” Now, that is very Scriptural! In the other comment, Jabari Banks tries to have it both ways by “ask[ing] the universe or God for something,” in addition to making an assertion which is not necessarily true even if you remove “the universe.”

All of these comments are sad because they are reflections of people who are looking to the universe, which is very impersonal, for meaning and direction. They’re also ironic in that these people are looking to the creation rather than the Creator, Who they have rejected, at least until now. In sharp contrast, there are many passages in the Bible which speak of God in a very personal way. One passage that comes to mind is Isaiah 43:1-7. The second part of verse 1 says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” The Creator of the universe knows each of His people and has called each one by name. In the second part of verse 6 and on into verse 7, we read: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth–everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Each person who has trusted Jesus Christ for salvation is a son or daughter of God. And in fact, when Jesus taught His disciples what we commonly call the Lord’s Prayer, He taught us, God’s sons and daughters, to begin with “Our Father.” It’s amazing that we can actually address the Creator of the universe in this way!

Which makes more sense: to look to the impersonal universe (albeit created by God) for purpose and guidance, or to a God who invites His children to call Him their Father? For me, the choice is simple. If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I pray that will change, even today.

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Within the last three weeks, there have been two more horrific mass shootings: one (killing ten) at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, and the other (killing 21, including 19 children) at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that many of my posts are in response to current events. Last year, I wrote a post about a Biblical response to mass-death events; click here if you’re interested: https://keithpetersenblog.com/2021/04/07/how-should-we-respond-to-mass-death-events/

11 thoughts on “Creator God and Created Universe: Personal vs. Impersonal

  1. An excellent analysis and reply. While reading your post I thought about the movies “Star Wars” mantra that was woven throughout: “May the Force be with you.” And to oppose the “Force,” was the “Dark Side.” Both, are impersonal “somethings” that exist somewhere.

    That may be part of the reason we have been hearing, what seems like more comments, “I think the universe is telling me…” The idea of the “Force” has permeated the culture and minds of many. Movie producers are not just providing us with entertainment, but most have a message, an idea, or agenda that is hidden within the movie, and sometimes out in the open; and if our “eyes” are open, we will see it. Movies are “change agents,” pointing those who watch, in the direction the director had in mind.

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    1. Good point, Brother Michael. The original Star Wars movie (now called Star Wars: A New Hope) came out in 1977 when I was a teen, so it and its many sequels have had plenty of time to permeate the culture.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think people are reluctant to say the word “God” today because of some of the bad stereotypes of believers and not wanting to be thought of as one of “those people.” Or maybe referring to “the universe” helps them feel more at a safe distance.
    I remember as a child feeling a little uncomfortable when saying “God.” I think I had some sense of the meaning and how awesome God was, and I found Him a little intimidating. Saying “Jesus” was even worse for me, He seemed so personal. Now I am happy to talk to anyone who will listen about God and Jesus, but I can see in some of them some of the uneasiness I used to feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In at least four of the five examples that were said by individuals, it seems clear that the people expressing it have no belief in God. Some people used to use other words and phrases, such as “The Man Upstairs,” when they were reluctant to say “God.” When a person said “The Man Upstairs” (which I haven’t heard for a very long time), I didn’t get the sense that he was a Christian.

      I think you hit on something regarding people “feel[ing] more at a safe distance” by saying “the universe” rather than “God” or some euphemism for Him; that increasing distance is actually dangerous, however. It’s just bizarre when you think about what they’re actually saying, as if the universe has any interest in them and is trying to give them guidance. It wouldn’t surprise me if they believe in evolution, which is also very impersonal and “uncaring,” but at least they would be consistent.

      As always, I appreciate your comment, Ann!

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  3. “as if the universe has any interest in them…” LOL Pretty arrogant. I’m not sure believing in evolution too would make them consistent. Evolution doesn’t teach that they have any personal value at all – aren’t they just an evolved blob of protoplasm? And yet the universe cares … ???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes, arrogant! Regarding evolution: what I meant was, from a rational perspective, it’s consistent because both the universe and evolution are uncaring and impersonal. From their perspective, you’re right; it would be remarkably inconsistent. On the other hand, maybe not as inconsistent for Chiwetel Ejiofor, who believes that the planet cares for us…

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  4. “The Man Upstairs” and other phrases, such as “thank your lucky stars” or the 1969 smash hit song by the 5th Dimension- “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in” (I had that song on a 45 record), all play to the idea of an impersonal universe that somehow controls what happens in people’s lives.

    Lyrics to “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in”

    When the moon is in the Seventh House
    And Jupiter aligns with Mars
    Then peace will guide the planets
    And love will steer the stars
    This is the dawnin’ of the age of Aquarius
    Age of Aquarius
    Aquarius!
    Aquarius!

    Harmony and understanding
    Sympathy and trust abounding
    No more falsehoods or derisions
    Golden living dreams of visions
    Mystic crystal revelation
    And the mind’s true liberation
    Aquarius!
    Aquarius!

    I have never read the full lyrics in those verses before, until now, Wow, that song is teaming with evil ideas and beliefs, but I used to sing along with this line “This is the dawnin’ of the age of Aquarius,” but never really understood the message it presented.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was only nine then, but I remember hearing it on the radio. That song really is full of some bizarre lyrics–and yes, evil–in their potential to lead people astray. Astrology is another manifestation of that.

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  5. I was 16 and had a stack of 45s of the top 40 hits, and that song was among them, played them all the time. Also heard them on radio stations WRIT and WOKY in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Keith, I think this talk about the universe trying to tell us something shows the influence of pantheism (which I don’t know much about) from people who do not believe in the God of the Bible. I don’t recall meeting anyone who talked that way before I was retired in 2010 and was in contact with a lot more people. I do not know if Christians can use this point when we witness to unbelievers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point about pantheism, Anthony. I referred to astrology in an earlier comment; I think that this idea about the universe supposedly “telling” people something probably also has roots in that.

      On a fundamental spiritual level, I think it’s a reflection of people worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.

      Liked by 1 person

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