The Atheists Are Revolting

The Atheists Are Revolting

I came across a National Post article recently about atheists, agnostics and non-believers rallying, or, if you prefer, revolting, against “religion.”  Headlined by the UK’s very own Richard Dawkins, the high priest among the “evangelists of unbelief”, who told atheists, “We are far more numerous than anybody realizes.”

Apart from adding a “So what!” to that slightly insecure posturing, I want to go through the article and poke it a little.

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Atheists Take Note (this Easter)…

Gralefrit Theology

Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter

church

This is a re-post of Dr John Dickson’s excellent challenge to Atheists to up their game in their critique of Christianity:

There is a dissonance between Christ’s “love your enemies” and Moses’ “slay the wicked”.

Atheists should drop their easily dismissed scientific, philosophical or historical arguments against Christianity, and instead quiz believers about Old Testament violence and hell, writes John Dickson.

As an intellectual movement, Christianity has a head start on atheism. So it’s only natural that believers would find some of the current arguments against God less than satisfying.

In the interests of a more robust debate this Easter, I (Dr John Dickson) want to offer my tips for atheists wanting to make a dent in the Faith. I’ve got some advice on arguments that should be dropped and some admissions about where Christians are vulnerable.

Tip #1. Dip into…

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Ah! Wisdom

Ah! Wisdom

We Protesting Protestants are (more often than not – be honest) averse to Christian instruction that talks of rules or maxims, for we have shed the Pharisaical and Catholic yoke of a Religion of Rules.

Pah!

We 500+1 Protestants are basically averse to authority; we don’t like being told what to believe or how to behave, and we have the post-Reformation but un-Enlightened opinion that “Rules: they is bad!”

I highly commend this video below. I came across these maxims a few years ago and, like Luther, nailed (or rather blue-tac-ed) them to the wall in my study at church.  Like Luther’s 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door, they’re not on my wall now, but I hope in all the wisdom and mercy of Christ that they become me and I become them, that I may not be found a prisoner to rules, but a free man in Christ.

May the same be true for you too. All grace to you.

I bumped into a JW…..

I bumped into a JW…..

…..and it didn’t hurt.  They were a trio of lovely people.  One of whom I had met several times until, I suspect, she (a 70+ Italian living in England) was banned from visiting me; I can only assume that was the case, since her frequent visits stopped so suddenly.  It may have been my poor tea making ability, but in all honesty, I do pride myself on making pretty dang good tea!

Anyhoo, the trio were loitering around the cliffs of Devon whence I came upon them.  I have a love for these people “of faith” and tried to convey as much.  As soon as it was revealed, like a dirty secret on EastEnders, that I was a “Christian”, and worse, a “Baptist minister”, well, all manner of gehenna and rotten-exegesis broke loose.

I wanted to go down the relational, friendly, understanding, “liberal”, loving route, but was thwarted by the doctinaire police from the school of eisegetical proof-texting sloganeering.  I really wanted to love these beloved personages towards the love of God, but they seemed intent, bent…..hell-bent on bringing to the fore an apocalyptic Hebrew Scriptural Hermeneutic that astounded, but sadly, didn’t surprise me.

What do I mean, I hear you sigh?  Well, for one, the strength of their apologetic was rooted in an Old Testament apocalyptic rhetoric of judgment and retribution.  I know full well there are Pslams (other genre are available) that betray a particular aspect of sin and judgment and wotnot.  But, for the love of God, the love of God was not so much a silent witness, as more a total absentee; more AWOL than anything else (“You weren’t there man!”)

When asked what the primary message of Jesus was, it turned out to be a revenge attack on the wicked and immoral.  I asked, in all seriousness, with a straight face, “Did the coming of Jesus make any difference?”  “Yes!” they replied, before quoting extensively from the imprecatory Psalms.

My heart sank, whilst my eyebrows rose and my toes curled.  Jesus didn’t make a difference from a pre-Gospel; pre-incarnation; pre-logos-becoming-flesh text.

“Didn’t Jehovah say we will be his witnesses?”  Indeed my ill-learned friend, he did (Isaiah 43:10).  But why fixate on an Old Testament text when you could fixate on a New Testament text:  “…and you will be my (Jesus’) witnesses in Judea, Samaria….everywhere…”  (Acts 1:8).  Jehovah’s Witnesses-Jesus wtnesses….oh my brain can’t cope with this theological explication! 

What a great eye-brow was raised that day!  Like I’d invented the verse.  Anyway, that’s (not) a moot point.  The point is this.  Given the apocalypyical legerdemain, I thought I’d ask a simple question to my three friends, the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

“Where are the Jehovah’s Witness between AD 100 and when Charles Taze Russell decided to have a go in the 1870’s?”

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They said what…?

“It’s not the existence of God we’re bothered about but the existence of you who say you believe in him.”  Andrew O’Hagan

“Fundamentalism:  a religious way of being that manifests itself in a strategy by which beleaguered believers attempts to preserve their distinctive identity as a people of group in the face of modernity and secularisation.”  Malise Ruthven

Jesus came to save us from religion.”  Paul Tillich

“Revelation is a process not a printout.”  David Jenkins

“The one thought that possesses me most at this time and, I may say, has always possessed me, is that we have been dosing our people with religion when what they wanted was the true and living God.”  F. D. Maurice

“[He] demonstrates to the thoughtful eye how really irrational a rationalist philosopher can be.”  William Golding

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Lemonade-Twaddle Christianity

S¯ren Kierkgaard

“The sort of [person] who now live cannot stand anything so strong as the Christianity of the New Testament (they would die of it or lose their minds), just in the same sense that children cannot stand strong drink, for which reason we prepare them a little lemonade – and official Christianity is lemonade-twaddle for the sort of beings that are now called [adults], it is the strongest thing they stand, and this twaddle then is their language they call “Christianity,” just as children call their lemonade “wine.”

Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon Christendom (1854), pg. 277

The Visitor and Inquisitor

One day, Jesus comes back.  He wanders through the streets and squares of a southern town, where just the day before 100 so-caleld heretics had been burnt at the stake.  The story-teller narrates, ‘He appeared quietly, unostentatiously, and yet – strange, this – everyone recognizes him.  Saying nothing, he passes among them with a smile of infinite compassion.’

The_Brother_KaramazovPeople who touch his garment are healed, a blind man’s sight is restored.  He even raises a small girl from the dead.  The crowds erupt, shouting and sobbing.  At this very moment, the Grand Inquisitor, a man of ninety, emerges from the cathedral.  The crowd meekly parts, and they bow their heads to the ground.  He then has the Visitor arrested.

Later, recieving the prisoner, the Grand Inquisitor says to him, ‘I know who you are.’  He accuses the prisoner of meddling.  The old man sentences the Prisoner to being burnt at the stake the next day.

The gist of his accusation against the Prisoner is that whereas the Prisoner has acted to ensure humanity’s freedom, the Grand Inquisitor acts to ensure humanity’s happiness.  He ensures their happiness by providing them with bread, with certainty, and with belonging.  The people, claims the Grand Inquisitor, cannot bear the freedom that Jesus has left them with; it was uncharitable of him to attempt this.  All those centuries ago, by refusing the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus had said no to buying people’s loyalty with bread, or with a display of miracles on demand, leaving them only their free wills and consciences from which to act.  ‘But the people are mere sheep,’ said the Grand Inquisitor, ‘and you have asked too much of them.  The freedom is an intolerable burden, which we have toiled for fifteen centuries to remove.’

The only response the Prisoner makes is to draw near to the old man, and kiss him on his bloodless ninety-year-old lips.  The old man shudders and cries, ‘Go, and do not come back . . . . do not come back . . . . . ever!’

A paraphrase from Chapter V, ‘The Grand Inquisitor’, in Fyodor Dostoesvsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, pg.227-54

Moor Sillouette

I took this on Dartmoor, Devon, UK