Faith Walk: Christians worldwide work to fill ‘God-shaped vacuum’

07/25/2014 7:00 AM

07/24/2014 5:38 PM

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus,” said Blaise Pascal, a 17th-century philosopher and physicist.

I think that quote can explain the world if you let it. If you view man as a combination of body, mind and spirit, then it makes sense.

Pascal speaks of this vacuum. Aristotle told us that nature abhors a vacuum. Forces rush in to fill that empty space. People consciously or unconsciously fill the void with drugs, booze, exercise, materialism or any combination of hundreds of things from this world.

Frequently, the force of the rush of those things into people’s lives can overwhelm them.

The quote redefines the nature of many of the world’s problems. The problems connected to vices such as drugs and alcohol become moral problems as well as physical ones. That recasts them in a new light. It explains how people continue to do those dangerous things in spite of a torrent of information about the risks of such behavior.

The Pascal quote explains other things, too. If you admit there is a spiritual aspect to our being, a “God-shaped vacuum” in each of us, then faith makes sense. That connection explains why people wake up early on Sundays to go to church, read the Bible and travel to the rough part of town or the other side of the world to help people.

Forces and people understand that vacuum of the spirit. They are trying to fill that void in any way possible. They even use violence and persecution to block certain ideas or promote their own.

I know to many nowadays, the idea of Christian martyrs seems like it’s from a movie or from a time long ago. Those things don’t happen anymore. Isn’t everyone civilized now? Haven’t we evolved past those things?

If only that were true. Some historians estimate as many as 65 percent of incidences of all Christian martyrdom have happened in the past century. CBS News and Time magazine reported that cases of Christians being killed for their faith doubled in 2013 from the year before.

A woman in Sudan was sentenced to death for converting. (She’s now in Rome.) Christians for the past several years have been killed in Iraq, jailed in Iran and generally treated badly across the Middle East. The Christian Science Monitor reports that thousands of Christians have fled in advance of persecution by the extremist Islamic State.

A hundred years ago, Christians made up 10 percent of the Middle East; today, they make up only half that.

But as this is occurring, the church is growing worldwide. How can this be, in such difficult circumstances?

I believe this is occurring because Christianity is God’s desire to fill that God-shaped vacuum in all of us.

Tom Magee, one of 13 Faith Walk writers for The Star, can be reached at

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