Is that possible—a universe without God? I suppose so, for there are many who do not believe in God, and who no longer try to explain the disjunction between our alien universe and a caring God. That is to say, such people have given up the idea of a compassionate God controlling the universe, specifically because the universe is so evidentially hostile to those God is supposed to care about.
On the other hand, some continue to believe in God, but have given up the idea that God manages the universe, or is even active in the universe for the same reason: the universe is so inhospitable that we are forced to live by our wits, luck, and experimentation without any obvious help from God. Not even prayer helps such people because the only voice they hear in their heads when they pray is the echo of their own thoughts.
They continue to believe in God, however, for the simple reason that they cannot explain why there is a world abounding with abundant life, instead of nothing at all. Their inability to answer that purely technical question is why they believe in God—in some unknown X that gave us the universe and all we see about us, both good and evil. God technically survives as an unknown X but not as an experienced reality in the physical world, and for that reason also not as a spiritual reality, since they recognize that belief in a spiritual reality may only be a figment of their own imaginations, or the result of undue influence by very persuasive people.
They no longer know anything about God's character. They recognize that what they know was only what they had been told, and what they were told contradicts what they experience in the world. For example, if God is active in the universe how can we explain evil going unchecked? If God controls the world how can we explain the incompetent management of the divine Weather Desk. Indiscriminately killing hundreds and thousands through earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. is simply not competent or compassionate management of the weather. Other examples of Godly incompetence or malfeasance in the exercise of the divine prerogatives can be cited, but they all inevitably lead to the same conclusion: that God, as generally conceived in Christian faith (i.e., compassionate and caring), must be absent from the world.
The fact that people can live without relying on God's involvement in the universe raises the question: what is left to Christians who are forced by conscience to surrender the idea that the physical world of matter can be spiritually manipulated through faith in the Christian God and prayer? The issue can be positively asked in this way: what does Christianity have left to offer the Christian, if God is absent from the universe? Here, very briefly, is what may be left.
A caring community where joys are jointly celebrated and sorrows commiserated.
A sharing community where members share the same traditions, know the same hymns, speak in the same idiom, and share similar values, the bedrock of which is the welfare and worth of the individual.
A common goal, which is to be "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13-14; Gospel of the Savior, 1:4 [Miller, Complete Gospels, 401-10]); that is to say: to transform society by the values of Jesus of Nazareth.
But spiritual magic, i.e., manipulating the physical world by spiritual means, is no longer an option in the face of modern Science's success in explaining much of what previously belonged to the domain of religion. Christians must face the vicissitudes of life alone, with only the palliative comfort and encouragement of the community.
Will that be enough do you suppose, or will Christianity, an ancient blending of religions of East and West, meet the same fate as the Greco-Roman religions?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University