Total Pageviews

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Atheism: A Little Sympathy?

It was a matter of days before Jesus Christ was to be handed over to the Pharisees to go through a mock trial, which itself led to his standing before Roman governor Pontus Pilate, who will give the go-ahead for him to be crucified. Not that Pilate was able to charge him with any crime. He knew that Jesus was innocent. But he had to give in to the baying crowd below him, who were chanting, CRUCIFY! CRUCIFY! Pilate knew full well that it was out of envy that they wanted him executed. Yet Pilate had to go along with it, else his conflict with the baying crowd would have brought him to stand before the Emperor in Rome, to give an account for his inability to govern a turbulent Jewish capital.
Jesus Christ, so meek and so mild, so as he is presented to children to this day. During the start of the Christmas season, carols are sung across the nation about the helpless babe, lying in a manger fast asleep, without ever letting out a whimper that he needs to be fed and his diapers changed.

And yet we now see him one morning walking down the hill towards Jerusalem with his disciples, feeling hungry. After all, they do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. He approaches a fig tree, in full leaf, and starts looking for figs he can get his teeth into. Surely, as the Son of Man, Jesus should have known that it was not the season for figs. It was Spring, figs don't ripen until the Summer. After going about his search, he steps back and making sure that all his followers were within earshot, loudly declares: May no one ever eat fruit from you again! And from that moment on, the tree began to wither from the roots up. (Mark 11:12-14.)
Atheists would love to pour scorn on this incident, as Jesus acting more like a spoilt child who couldn't get his way rather than the meek and mild character who wouldn't harm a fly. Then to add to this, Jesus turning to the crowds surrounding him and crying out: If any of you does not hate his father or mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, yes even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26). Atheists would point out how scores of families were left weeping with distress as one of their sons or daughters walked out of the home to join a weird sect or cult, which poured scorn on mainstream churches. I should know, I have gotten involved with such a group towards the end of 1972, and dear Mum burst into tears when I told her that I believed God wanted me to join that group. Fortunately for all of us, I came across a stray magazine which on its front cover featured an article exposing the truth about this particular cult.
It seems to parallel the character of God in the Old Testament. Ferociously jealous, God would kill anyone who followed or worshipped a rival god. Atheists love to point this to us, omitting a small fact that all rival gods of the ancient Canaanites demanded babies and young children to be burned alive at their sacrificial altars. Well educated atheists tend to keep this side of the argument hidden, and accuse God of being a megalomaniac. Then again, a megalomaniac God he could well be, according to the atheist. After all, we mustn't forget about the guy who collected sticks for firewood on the Sabbath, Numbers 15:32-36. He was taken and put in a cell overnight. The next morning God ordered him to be stoned to death, his screams as the fuselage struck bringing distress to his wife and family, who afterwards had to fend for themselves without a breadwinner.
And in Numbers 11:1-3 we read of the Israelites complaining about their hardships as they are camped in the desert. God starts to send fire among those on the outskirts of the camp, burning them alive. God's quick temper is again revealed in Numbers 16, when Korah and his mates decided to return to Egypt, seeing that they were far better off there than at present in the desert.  Not just the adults, but their children and little ones, perhaps their grandchildren, too young to know what was going on, all perished by being swallowed up by the ground they were standing on, which gave way beneath them. So much about protecting them against being burnt to a crisp on a pagan altar.

Then there is the story of King Saul being commissioned by God through Samuel to slay all the Amalekites. In 1 Samuel 15:1-3 the task is set:
Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to annoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

The Amalekites were to be executed by King Saul's army for having fought against Israel to defend their territory soon after the Israelites had left Egypt, as recorded in Exodus 17. This occurred hundreds of years before Saul's day. In other words, the generation of Amalekites alive during Saul's reign were to pay the price for the sin their forefathers committed in ancient times. I suppose it is a bit like saying that I, my wife and daughters are to be executed because my Roman ancestors persecuted and killed Christians around AD 60.  In the  slaughter of the Amelekites, not only adult men but women and children would also be slain. So I can imagine a female toddler, less than two years old, sitting at the corner of the room, screaming aloud for her mother, mouth wide open, tears streaming down her face. Just her misfortune that she had Amalekite parents, both lying dead in the next room. Then a formidable Israeli soldier, attracted by the screams, enters the room and thrusts his sword through the tiny body. By God's orders.

Atheists will tell us that the Bible is by no means a standard to set our moral principles. Surely there is much truth in this. How would we feel if we were aware of innocent children slain today for something their great grandparents did many years earlier? Or killed because of an in-group/out-group divide, or a tribal or neighbour dispute. We are living in a day when perpetrators of child abuse are sent inside for many years as each case makes news headlines across the whole Media, TV and newspapers alike. Child abuse horrifies us, but back in Biblical times it was commanded by God, or as the atheists would put it, a dispute over religion as well as being outside the house of Israel.

According to the atheists, we like to make excuses, saying that - ah! We are no longer under the Old Covenant, as Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Now, according to Pauls' letters, and especially the one addressed to the Galatians, we are under grace, the Law having been fulfilled in Christ, therefore it is no longer our schoolmaster. Furthermore, grace unites both Jew and non-Jew under one roof, the Church, and the line dividing the two groups was taken away at the crucifixion. Yet it is tragic, really that there is an in-group/out-group mentality within our churches. Different nationalities, different denominations, social class within a congregation and different doctrines and opinions, and also age divide as well, even within a small group. The atheist looks at the church, and walks away, the earnest enquirer is not impressed and agnostics remain without knowledge, nothing there worth pursuing.

Even I, myself have been branded as likely to stand outside the door of Heaven and been told by the Lord, I never knew you, depart from me, ye who work iniquity, of Matthew 7:21-23 - just for believing in Once Saved Always Saved, and therefore not producing the spiritual fruit of the vine of John 15:1-8. I am also seen as one who takes sin lightly and not working out my salvation with fear and trembling as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12 - if living in fear of punishment and terrors of a lost eternity is the reason for Christian commitment, which certainly does not reflect the love of God, and any unbelieving observer will see this fear straight away! No wonder the unbelieving mock our faith. The atheist also see us squabbling - are we eternally secure in Christ as believers or not? Sermons are delivered, books written, radio broadcasts and televangelists spout out their opinions, and in modern times, the Internet is plastered with texts and videos from both sides, each blaming the other of adhering to the devil's doctrine. No wonder we look rather foolish to the atheist or agnostic, especially one who has a high degree of education.

So the atheist blames religion as a hard taskmaster which inspires fear of punishment, yet have no historical evidence to base itself on. The story of Creationism, of Adam and Eve, the Noachian Deluge, miracles done by Moses in Egypt, Balaam's talking donkey - as well as a baby boy born without a natural father are held as nonsense, and against science to the atheist - let alone the suffering of one man to atone for the sins of the whole world, which the atheist would find offensive. Higher morality can be achieved by mankind without the need of the Atonement, according to the unbeliever, proof of we don't slay innocent children in the name of religion like in the past, upholding their claim.

I as a Christian believer feel stuck in a corner, so to speak. Yes, I do feel a level of sympathy for the atheist who knows the Bible well. After all, how can we adore a God who ordered young innocent children slain just because they were of an out-group, that is, unfortunate to have Amalekite or non Israeli parents. Yet at the same time I can feel embarrassed, upholding recent young-Earth Creationism at the face of Plate Tectonics, giving us evidence that the continents of North and South America, for example, had taken millions of years to move to their present positions, if the rate of movement is about the same as the growth of a fingernail, which is about two centimetres a year.

Modern education is reaching higher and higher degrees, the Gospel based on recent Creationism is getting to look more and more foolish on a daily basis, the rank and file are bowing to the knowledge and opinions of the academics who are laughing at the Bible in louder tones. So confessing Jesus Christ as Saviour becomes even more challenging as time moves on.

Having said all that, God is my Saviour and Lord through faith in Jesus Christ and my desire is to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. For no matter what the atheists think, what the skeptics believe, what the crowd thinks, the love of God will prevail, because I know that the supernatural birth of Christ, his death on a cross to atone for our sins, his resurrection and ascension and his future return to rule from Jerusalem are all solid-rock facts.

And here I rest my case.


  1. Dear Frank,
    Don't lose heart -- His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts; He is God and we are not. That may sound, and be, simplistic, but if we understood it all, we would not need faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please Him or to be saved.

    The scientific "evidence" to support evolution is lacking. Atheists, too must have faith, albeit a misplaced and foolish faith, that the incredible complexity around us just "happened." This flies in the face of thermodynamic laws, as order does not arise spontaneously from chaos.

    I love your conclusion. An excellent and thought-provoking post.

    God bless,

  2. Regarding the atheist Frank, 1 Corinthians ch. 2 v.14 says 'The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.'. God's wisdom is foolishness to man. It is only when we have been called by God to Jesus and have walked through that door that we realize that the scriptures are discerned spiritually.

  3. Hebrews 11:3-6 declares, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

    The Atheist or Agnostic refuses to believe that part, leaving them with only a superficial understanding of what is being taught, often convinced they know more than those who believe.