I received the following question:

There is a story oft repeated in churches around the world.  It is the story of the God-shaped hole.  It says that there is a void in all people and we are all trying to fill that void.  Many people turn to vice or other forms of escapism, but they never quite escape (and still survive).  The story goes on … the only way to fill that hole is with God.

Now this story sounds so wonderful to the ear.  It is hard to find someone in a church who disagrees with it.  But to take this Christianity thing seriously I have to hold it all accountable to the light of the word.  Is this story ever told in the Bible?  Are there things in the Bible which would lead one to believe that the story is true?  This may be a case where it is true, but like the theology of the Trinity, it wasn’t fully developed in Bible times.  This may be a case where the story was told once by someone speaking their own words, and it sounding true, was repeated until no one could oppose it.

I am not disagreeable to it.  I just want to know that I am not being led down a path that only appears right.  If someone has the correct directions to a house but accidentally inverts one of the digits in the house number, they will be in just as much the wrong house as someone with entirely wrong directions.

Well, you ask a very good question. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” That word “eternity” is translated from the Hebrew olam, equivalent to the Greek aion. It basically means that He has put the outflow (kingdom, government) of God into the hearts of people. Everyone has a longing, a yearning, a desire for something better than what we have here and now, a world that is better than the one in which we live.

It is so universal in nature that it can almost be taken as a law, that every need that man has is provided. Another fact, by the way, that speaks for intelligent design and against evolution. It has been suggested that this law is proven true so often, that just to state the need is pretty much enough to guarantee that there is something out there to fulfill it. This is so universally true that to apply this to the need for God seems not to be a stretch. Since we human beings need God, and everything we need is provided for us, it seems almost to go without saying that there is a God out there to fulfill our need.

That said, I find nothing in the Scriptures about God placing a deep longing, a need, a “hole” in the hearts of men that can only be filled by Him. He does place a longing for the “eon” in our hearts, but the longing for God I do not know. It seems that men need love (not just sexual love, either,) and those who don’t get it long for it, and can ultimately find it in God. But those who do get it throughout their lives, do they still have a deep longing? Many imagine they know God, and seem quite satisfied, though in reality they know nothing of Him. Did the Pharisees have a God-shaped hole? They thought God was on their side.

The human need for God seems often to be most strongly observable in those who have given up on God altogether. Those who have no god in their lives seem most to show the calamity that such a condition brings about. But what about those who have a false god? Is their “hole” filled?

You are right, this is not something set forth by Scripture. My brief researches on it seemed to suggest that it was first postulated by a Catholic.

I do not know that this is right either. As you say, it sounds good, and I have certainly seen people who I thought showed evidence of having such a hole in their lives. But I cannot say that everyone I meet who I think does not know God has such a hole in evidence. Just because some seem to demonstrate a deep need for a God they don’t have doesn’t prove that all have such a “hole.” I think this idea had best be approached with caution.

Good point. Thanks for bringing this up. I had not really thought about the veracity of this idea before. It does seem questionable, not being something set forth by the Bible.