The Inevitable Christian Impulse of Thanksgiving

K. Chesterton once said the worst moment for an atheist is when they are really thankful but have no one to thank. I don’t know about that, as I’m sure a secular person could easily find someone to whom to direct gratitude. But in an ultimate sense, yes, I think Chesterton is on to something. There is an inevitable Christian impulse to Thanksgiving.

If the universe were the product of chance then there would be, at bottom, nothing for which to give thanks. Giving thanks implies intention, purpose, goodness, things which lack a foundation from an atheistic perspective. When we slow down for a big turkey meal and become introspective and reflective, if we do indeed become those things, we realize there is much for which to be thankful. But that doesn’t point towards chance, does it?

If the universe came about by an accidental explosion, is governed by nothing, and is heading nowhere, gratitude loses value. To give thanks is to express a contrary view, that everything is not merely chaos and chance. It is to, for a moment, act as though something like providence might be at work. In other words, our gratitude might be pointing us away from a meaningless universe to something more.

If there is indeed some sort of higher purpose or intention behind the universe, our gratitude would make little sense if this source were either unkowable or unkind. In the Christian perspecitve, God is both knowable and kind. He has revealed his love to us in a way we can know him in a personal way. As Christians, we believe this to be the highest of reasons for our gratitude. And, as Charles Spurgeon once said, if we can give God nothing else, let us at least give him our thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.