The Christian faith envisions a God who has a “human-shaped hole” in his heart and has created us with a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts. The latter is necessary for us, indeed, definitional of we are. We cannot live “humanly” without filling that God-shaped hole with God. We constantly try to fill it with other things, but none other than God satisfies.
On the other hand, the “human-shaped hole” in God’s heart is not necessary or definitional of who God is. This inclusion of humanity in the life of God is something God chose. He has determined himself to be for us from all eternity (Barth). Thus he has chosen to bear a “human-shaped hole” in his heart that can only be filled by human beings living with him in love and loyalty.
St. Augustine (5th century) and the philosopher/theologian Blaise Pascal (17th century) capture this double-sided truth with famous aphorisms. Pascal wrote,
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)
Augustine represents the “human-shaped hole” in God’s heart saying in his Confessions, “Lord, you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” (Confessions 1.1.1.)”
In Jesus Christ we see a human being filled and participating in God’s life to the full. In him we also see God living out his passionate longing for us to so live and fill the human-shaped hole in his heart.
God, as we have noted, does not “need” us in the same way that we do him. Yet his overwhelming passion for and commitment to us means that he does not intend and will not be God “without us.”
Our default view of God, both within and without the church, is often at odds with this view of God. We typically operate with some version of what I call the “God with a Scowl.” Angry, score-keeping, vengeful, seeking retributive justice, distant with an oppressive “holiness” – these are some of the variations of this “God with a Scowl.” You can probably add others.
As we can see in Jesus Christ the “God with a Scowl” is a blasphemous idol - one that must be rejected unconditionally and vigorously! And we must insist with the Bible, and theologians like Augustine and Pascal, and writers like C. S. Lewis and, in a very different way, Philip Pullman, that damnable deity is a figment of our perverted pagan or not quite fully baptized imagination. And in Christ we must cling to the gospel “good news” against all the lies and false portrayals of deity in our culture and its religion.