Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Important Quotation at the Christian Book Expo 2009

When you say something mild yet people get heated, it means there is power in your words. When that continues to happen you eventually realize that others inherently value your message whether they like it or not. However anti-theistic author Christopher Hitchens, special guest at the Christian Book Expo 2009, made a relevant point, so I feel the need to address it.
"Those that say 'I have a meek and mild Savior for you, and if you don't like it you can burn forever...be tortured infinitely'...is the same whether they keep it to themselves or try to pass it on to someone else. A person who believes that is a wicked and delusional idiot...I decline to be spoken to in that tone of voice. I will not be told 'I have a supernatural offer for you, you can be redeemed if you believe just in me and if you don't like it you can be tortured forever'. I won't be talked to like that. That is the language of fascism and dictatorship. It's comforting to know that it is completely mythical..."
I believe in evolution in the sense that a short-tempered man is the successor of a crybaby. As cowardly as the passage sounds (i.e. "I do not like the sound of that. It is scary and unfair, so not only will I deny it, I will also be intolerant of those who believe it."), it is an important argument that should not be shamefully discarded by apologists. I want to make it clear that although God is not limited to or from any way of spiritual conviction, generally, gone astray is prudence through ways of "in-your-face" evangelism as Hitchens so passionately despises. There is a potential degradation one feels having an absolute stranger propose various credenda. Though inadvertently, given is the implication that the listener is an ignorant heathen thus further influencing psychological bitterness - a more intense rejection of the actual message due to anger with the messenger (however, that most definitely depends on the listener and the context of the situation). On the contrary it is possible to speak a painful truth without that truth causing more pain than it must. In many cases such encounters are viable, but on the other hand there is considerable evidence of the harm done; for example, it is the formation of the severely anti-theistic hardened heart, which extends beyond mere atheism or agnosticism such as those like Hitchens himself.

Many people in a rather reckless context claim to "just tell it like it is". In actuality, nobody really stresses what one says so much as the motive behind what one says; hence, he is merely blowing hot air and detracting from "what is". I am aware that many are familiar with the frequented quotation by author Brennan Manning, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians..." In a social sense rather than spiritual sense, the Manning quotation is indeed rather valuable due to a certain tendency of "holy condescension" and, equally important, irresponsible Christianity. Lamentably have theists attempted to justify reckless misrepresentation of God and the collective body of believers while further ignoring such a sincere observation; yet the separations within the Christian community that are birthed from a plethora of causes, ranging from moral and theological disagreements to social and political wars, are ways in which the atheist will contest the validity of theism. While disagreements are inevitable, would not the representation of a unified body of Christ prevail when as consistent as possible? John 15:20 must remain in the heart of the believer, "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also," but secondly one must also remember the great distinction between luxuriating in destruction and adjusting for construction. It is written that there is a number of individuals ready to yield just as there are hardened hearts, and the preservation of the good is certainly worth one's effort.

Is this truly "humanistic theology" that I am speaking of, in the sense of making an appeal to man before an appeal to God, or merely open arms for a brother's ambiguous pleas of bewilderment? First, let me explain. The simple notion that faith is the divine, objective truth makes it inherently far from humanistic theology regardless of the means in which the message is communicated. However, this is not an indication that it cannot be improperly communicated (e.g. violent extremism). Is one not given ears to hear his brother's responses in order to effectively communicate with him? "He who has ears, let him ear" (Matthew 11:15): The passage is frequently projected onto the non-believer, yet it equally applies to the believer. As social beings, one is designed to learn by acknowledgment of countless sources including perspectives of the non-believer. If otherwise, would not God be inhibited from using other media to speak to those that faithfully perceive his full presence? He is quite unpredictable and has once used something as illogical as a burning bush on Mount Sinai to send a message (Exodus 3). One's holiness is neither a component of stubborn arrogance nor a form of communicative rejection. Instead, great components of communicating the divine truth are the fruits of the Spirit.

It is actually quite simple, as simplicity is often highly underestimated and complexity is not always necessary. In the appropriate context, and to perform sincerely and without boast, the vitality of faith in Christ is manifested through a lifestyle of understanding. Sometimes the sharing of faith is as simple as allowing one's fruits to invigorate a sense of natural intrigue by the recipient. Inherently, one is longing to adhere to the individual he has great affection for; likewise,
contemporary apologist Ravi Zacharias stated, "Yes, if truth is not under-girded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious and the truth repulsive."

I cannot think of very many things more despicable than befriending one merely to try and change him. In such cases the fruits are displaced from a Christ-like walk to a disingenuous business - a deviation from the faithful man's love without agenda. A truth that is both fully manifested and radiant provides direction, and the individual bound to be drawn by its fruits from within the bearer will be drawn. I understand that this raises the question: Does time, ultimately, tick away for the salvation of an individual initially secured in the foreknowledge of a timeless God? One cannot be absolutely certain either way - we find that tomorrow is promised to no man, but merely in the eyes of man
; hence, this is where faith in the fruits, as manifested through Christ, come into effect. Moreover, one's design is much like a lasting beginning (thus remaining consistent with Einstein's theory regarding the relativity of time).

Surely all people self-proclaim some variation of truth, but how can one truly illuminate a vigor for that truth? Oftentimes as I walk the streets, I am either approached by or observing the modern evangelist - I further see that he would greater benefit from assimilating the outlook of a conqueror rather than that of a beggar (Romans 8:37). On one hand Christ was persecuted for speaking truth, yet on the other he was sought for his proficient wisdom and miracles. Now, there is power in truth, and any speaker will experience both hands no matter his approach. While we all have callings,
I find that, in an era of overestimated intellectualism, a philosophically sound approach to the properties of God holds a great deal of strength, which according to my experiences is an intriguing perspective for those who initially do not favor alleged fairytales or implied condescension. More specifically, it is said to be "a breath of fresh air", and Christ in his true manifestation is most definitely a breath of fresh air to those who sincerely seek him. When we begin merely by fighting about our differences, and in this case, the theist versus the atheist, we leave no foundation to build any sort of ladder to understanding; with no understanding, there is nothing but a wall of denial.

In addition, I must make it clear that God is a skillful strategist. His followers are endowed with a plethora of personalities and strengths in order to fulfill the ultimate purpose. Therefore, they are capable of spreading his message in a variety of ways apart from those previously mentioned.
No matter the approach, all should remember Titus 3:1-2 in their endeavors, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men."

Returning to Hitchens, even though he can be emotionally justified in his statement, he is simply misguided. If he does not believe there is a Hell and that theists are delusional (which is a point of view that he openly expresses), then there is no reason to take offense. There is a popular quotation within the atheist community by author Robert Pirsig, "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion."

There is no denying that the quotation is witty (and I want to note that depending on semantics I do not support "religion"; in some cases, it is only a distraction from the very God it supposedly serves), however, if the assertion is indeed valid, then for one to take offense in opposition of the delusional teachings of any form of theological fatalism is quite insane through and through. If one was to visit a psychiatric hospital, which is generally a discourse of a great deal of seemingly outrageous absurdity, he would choose not to hold it against the insane mainly due to the intuition in which he "knows" the inmates speak illogically. When he truly concludes an ideology to be intellectually absurd then there exists nothing to be offended by, otherwise neither individual is the sane individual. Hitchens did add that he is comforted to "know" that it is completely mythical; however, by the aforementioned words of Pirsig and his very own intolerance of any religious dogma, there is an inconsistency in the overall perspective towards theists who believe in a Hell.

Having said that, how does one remain offended by a purportedly nonexistent conception? He is offended when there is an inherent vestige, a state in which he still considers that this nonexistent conception exists. Deep in every individual's conscience rests the possibility of God no matter how passionately he denies it.

More importantly, I want to explain the mercy of God and how it is not in contradiction with the theoretical existence of Hell. Hitchens' statement raises the controversial and repetitiously used rhetoric yet again:

"If God loves everyone so much, then why would he send a person to eternal torture?"

Occasionally, one is coerced to avoid excessive biblical criteria according to the philosophies of those who do not directly accept the Bible as absolute truth. Although time after time do I fail in my own imperfect ways, this does not always have to be a problem. While the Bible is the infallible sword of believers, one's relationship with Christ, upon surrender, can provide the gift of reason. Should not the follower realize his direct relationship with and heart knowledge of Christ as much as his head knowledge of the word of God? Such a relationship distinguishes faith from mere religion; hence, a consciousness of both his nature and his word in biblical context can be attained. One can remember that God's word is the sword, and the mind which he has given is the sheath.

Regarding the prior question, revealed are the basic qualities of God in which many are familiar with: he is merciful, loving, sovereign, and just; however, one must understand the wrath of God - one in which is to be feared above all else. Considering God according to the Bible, the lasting solace throughout all of existence is that of God, not from oneself nor any other external force(s). Eminently is humanity given the current existence for the glorification of God, hence an indication of the opportunity to either seek or reject the presence of God. Because he fortifies all that is loving and merciful, if one is to reject him, then equivalently one is rejecting such blessings of divine amity, as C.S. Lewis said, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."

Often do I use the following analogy to support the prior explanation: Just as cold is the absence of heat rather than the opposite of heat and dark is the absence of light rather than the opposite of light, Hell is the "absence of God" (however, it is only safe to say "to a degree") rather than the opposite of Heaven. Should it remain puzzling to so many that one's very own denial of God and all divine fortifications, hence consequently being permitted such, is utterly contradictory to Epicurus' rhetoric of a malevolent God? The existence of Hell is substantially a representation of not only the wrath but also proportionately the love of God; ultimately, he forces himself onto no individual in rejection of him and his great blessings. This is an absolute consistency with all the revealed properties of God.

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