Back in the early 1960s, before one could check such quotes on the web, a story circulated concerning Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (1934-1968). As I recall, someone asked the cosmonaut if he had seen God in the heavens during his spaceflight; to which Gagarin, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church, was to have replied, “I looked and looked and looked but I didn’t see God.”
The story is highly disputed. According to some sources, the quote originated from Nikita Khrushchev’s speech at the plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU about the state’s anti-religion campaign.
I remember people responding to that quote, “Give it some time. You’ll see him.”
I’m not sure if such cute comebacks change anybody’s mind. A modern-day parallel is the bumper sticker, “Honk if you love Jesus. Text if you want to meet him.” People still text when passing such cars (and perhaps while driving such cars).
But the implications of such clichés should cause one to pause and think. Every day we get up not knowing how the day will go. Why is it so far-fetched to think that something lies beyond death that we don’t know? And like some days, what comes next may be really good or really bad.
In his classic work, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis responds to those who question belief in an afterlife. Specifically, a belief in a creature of evil in the afterlife. He writes,
“I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil —hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, ‘Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.’”1
I doubt this little query will change anybody’s mind. But at least it crossed their mind.
“And the great dragon . . . that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” – Revelation 12:9.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 51.