Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
One New Atheist motto says “There is no God and I hate Him.”
You hate someone who doesn’t exist?
That doesn’t make sense.
However . . . perhaps it makes perfect sense. This absurd statement could well be a most revealing one. Maybe the New Atheists have let the cat out of the bag, and we can now get down to the real issue.
What the God-deniers are saying is this: “I reject God. I don’t want Him in my world. I know He’s there, but I want nothing to do with Him. And, to ensure that He doesn’t interfere with my life, I will even deny that He exists. That makes it just a little bit easier to steer clear of God and to run my life just as I please.”
There’s an old word for this: subterfuge. It comes from a verb which means “to evade, escape, flee by stealth.” Avoidance by distraction. We are all good at playing that game, aren’t we?
And here it seems that the New Atheists are playing it. The God-deniers are telling us that they are, in fact, God-rejectors, and that the philosophical and scientific banter is really a smokescreen. The root issue is much deeper and more personal.
We can all find plenty of reasons to reject God, but deep down there is one fundamental reason: We are rebels at heart. We harbor within us a deep-seated craving for self-autonomy. We don’t want God messing with our lives.
If we are honest, that’s what’s going on inside. It’s true of all of us.
Unfortunately, it’s a dead end street. A forever dead end.
Listen to Martin Luther: “It is the utmost stupidity for us to imagine that our cure lies in flight from God rather than in our return to God…”
The incredibly good news of the Gospel is that the God we run away from is the God who lovingly and patiently pursues us. His name is Jesus. He became human and died on a cross to destroy the lies we have believed and to bring us back.
When we finally lay down our arms, listen to His voice, and respond to His call, everything changes. Our life is flooded with light. The truth sets us free.
And we begin to discover that the Good News is better than we ever imagined.
Skeptics should find it most comforting to consider the possibility that they may be wrong, and that there may be a God who made the world, and who one day will fix everything that’s wrong with it.
This thought is heartening because we all have dreams for a better world—dreams of freedom and beauty, of goodness and love. Most of us hope we can somehow make this world a better place.
But if, as naturalism claims, this material world is all humans have ever known, if this is “normal” and things have been this way for millions of years, then our dreams make very little sense. What do we mean by “better”? To what are we comparing this world?
However, our dreams make a lot of sense when we put them in a framework of belief in a God who created a perfect world that was ruined by sin, and who purposes to make everything right, and good, and beautiful. The Biblical narrative tells us that the Creator also happens to be a Redeemer and that paradise will one day be restored. The last chapter will be glorious.
Perhaps even skeptics could get excited about that.
Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures.
I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.