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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Father God I Wonder...

The above title is also the title of one of our wedding songs: 
Father God I wonder how I managed to exist without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving Care...
I am aware that such a statement would be scorned to intensity by anyone who was not brought up by a church-going family, even by those whose parents did bring to church during childhood and are at present committed atheists, also by those who cannot justify the presence of a "Fatherly loving God" to a world full of suffering, war, starvation, disease, poverty - whilst the few who are well-off financially, who are also well educated and hold a good job - are more likely the ones who attend church and acknowledge a Fatherly loving God. In a city such as London during the 1970's, a man dressed in a business suit walks hurriedly past a beggar besotted by alcohol, pretending not to see him. The beggar is slumped there, not because he was foolish enough to throw away his life, but because of the yet-to-be-recognised mental illness known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. 

PTSD after spending six years fighting in a global war. Probably knowing that some 383,700 British military personnel had never made it through such a horrible conflict. His thoughts constantly going back to his days at the barracks. His days when he was lean, strong, muscular, clean-shaven, among his closest friends, and maybe with a special friend who was closer than a brother - very much like David and Jonathan. And the one he had to watch die from his war-wounds as he lay in his arms and listening to his last, gasping breath. And forever remaining shocked by such an experience, he never properly adapted to civil life, especially with food rationing lasting some years after that, he remained unemployable and eventually homeless, ending his days forlorn in the streets. Indeed, by the 1970's, the sight of some well-dressed people marching by, holding up high a banner which read, God Loves You stirred only revulsion. Even worse if the banner read, Prepare to meet your God! After such trauma, especially after the loss of such a close companion, anything religious or with any spiritual slant had as much appeal to the beggar as finding a live maggot in your food.

I guess I was very fortunate to have been born during the Baby-Boom generation. Just young enough to miss the obligatory National Service, as the compulsory side to it was abolished by Harold Wilson's Government by May 1963, when I was just eleven years old. Indeed, as I see it, this was God's grace, although many would disagree, blaming the doing away with National Service with the gradual decline of discipline, especially in schools, along with the de-masculinization of the average British man, a trend so deplored by many Right-leaning newspaper journalists and columnists.    

Probably I can understand why the love of God towards the world is so misunderstood or so difficult to grasp. By entering a Gothic church or cathedral, whether Anglican or Catholic, yet remains a constant reminder of our own shortcomings, and being in the presence of a holy God, to whom we all will eventually give an account. So, as a boy, conversation was in whispers, as if afraid to disturb God from his sleep (actually it was so not to disturb anyone deep in prayer, often seen in Catholic churches). And the need to dress smartly. After all, the invention of the term Sunday Best was by no means accidental, as if God would be offended at a shirt worn without a tie, the sight of denim, or trousers with a hole at the knee, or the sight of a damp circle under the arms, or for a woman to wear a top or dress with a low neckline, or heaven forbid, she arrives without wearing a hat or bonnet. And dare if you accidentally and embarrassingly let out a belch, or even a resounding fart in church! And so such a concept of who God is, with his rather judgemental, punitive character does not warm the average human heart to himself, but from the more timid he raises fear, or at least some form of apprehension.

And at school, that was exactly how God was perceived, and not only a number of boys became "atheists" but I too. Or to be more honest with myself, a God hater. Could this be the real reason why a biologist, after reading a recently-published book by Charles Lyell, The Principles of Geology, the scene was set to launch perhaps the most anti-Gospel philosophy a man can think of, and after a visit to the Galapagos Islands, he himself wrote, On the Origin of Species, which made its author a household name. No doubt, Charles Darwin grew up in a very similar religious environment as I did, maybe more so, for after growing up as a Unitarian, part of his higher education was at the University of Cambridge to train as an Anglican clergyman. Apparently, he couldn't have been that impressed with the character of God either, with his emphasis of holiness, accountability, and judgement, but rather thin on his love and redemption through Jesus Christ, for he never made it to the profession. So instead, his love of biology grew, and he eventually dared to challenge the record of Divine Creation as revealed in the early chapters of Genesis.

And so his theory of Evolution became the source of truth rather than that presented in Holy Scripture. And it should not be a surprise since Darwin was an Englishman, and even voted as the Greatest Briton of all Time by BBC Correspondent Andrew Marr not long after the turn of the Millennium, and in addition with Charles Lyell being a Scotsman, it's no coincidence that the United Kingdom has become the motherland of Uniformitarian Geology and its younger biological sibling.

The social repercussions of this Lyell/Darwinian theories could not be more devastating. Racism is linked to evolution, which is why in time past, particularly in the 1980's, bananas were thrown at black players at a football pitch by white supremacists and mimicking monkey sounds at the stands. And according to Internet sources, this still happens at parts of Europe to this day. And let's face it, I believe this form of racism is still present here, although in the subconscious rather than outright. Maybe, as I once watched on TV, there were City employers who secretly messaged their agencies not to send black candidates for job interviews. And how could I not mention The Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins referring to everyone who would have preferred to remain in the European Union as one of a population of monkeys, as an indication and a yardstick that English patriotism is linked to evolutionary advancement?    

And professing ours to be a Christian country as opposed of being Islamic, our culture still lacks the Fatherly love of God engrained in its consciousness, but still rather perceived to be more of a divine bully who has respect for those higher educated toffs who dress well for church, but has little, if any regard, for others who don't quite fit the ideal model. And yet I can hear the pages of the Bible rustle like leaves of a tree rustling in the wind. The apostle James devotes the whole of his second chapter of his letter specifically to this issue. He wrote against showing special favour to the rich man who enters the house-church (as they were in those days) dressed in purple and fine clothing, whilst at the same time showing contempt for the poor man in rags who also walks in. Oh, its all very well believing on the intellectual level that only one true God exists (in contrast to a pantheon of idols and lesser divinities) but what is that to the watching world if showing neglect to the one who is cold and hungry, even to the point of publicly dishonouring God?

James concluded that you see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone, and just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead - (James 2:24, 26). Sure, I'm aware that anybody has the capacity for doing good. Richard Dawkins was quite specific about this. The trouble is: Atheists such as Dawkins evaluate the motives behind these good deeds as more genuine within those who are irreligious, but more out of fear of eternal punishment within the religious group. And I have to say that he is right, at least in part. Because during the last forty-plus of being a Christian believer myself, I have come across teachings indicating that fear should be the correct motivation for Christian commitment, simply because our love for God and for each other is not yet made perfect. And this hadn't come from a church layman but from a Cambridge-educated and Bachelor of Arts graduate, church pastor, itinerant preacher and author of several books. It is unfortunate that although this scholar has given great credit to the Bible, its historicity and truthfulness, I have wondered what kind of impact has he made to the unbelieving world. Are favours and good deeds done to others out of fear or even out of apprehension for the possibility of eternal punishment really that virtuous?

Indeed, this sort of thing brings the whole of the Christian faith into disrepute in the sight and hearing of outsiders. Good deeds done out of fear. This is like petrol fuel being thrown onto the fires of atheism! As I once read in the spiritual section of a gay website, one contributor wrote in the forums that the trouble with religious people is that their so-called "goodness" is done out of fear of Hell, and therefore his atheism is justified, especially where churches hold a high condemnation rate for all homosexuals. I wanted to write a reply to defend my faith in Christ and save its credibility. I wasn't able to write anything. Why? Because I knew that he was right, and I had nothing to say. But even worse than that, the idea of God  as a fatherly figure is hardly given any credit, but instead perceived as a strict moralist and a sky-bully. Little wonder that he is looked upon as a kind of spaghetti-god in the heavens, a candidate for the most abusive ridicule from the gay community.

The true Christian lives in love, love for his heavenly Father and love for others, especially other believers. That is the main emphasis of John's first letter. Even in his Gospel, Jesus is recorded as giving a new commandment for all believers, and this new commandment is to love one another, because through this the world will know that they are Jesus' true disciples, that they love each other as he loved them, right to the point of laying down his life for the one loved, as Christ himself laid down his life for a sinning world - John 13:35.

Perhaps this was what Jesus meant when he says that we are the light of the world and a city built on a hill (Matthew 5:14-16) - so let your light shine so by your good deeds men may praise God in heaven. The only way that God could be glorified is for the sinner to repent - to change his mind from unbelief to believing in his heart that this Jesus is the risen Christ, and so he receives mercy, is justified, and given eternal life. Every sinner saved brings glory to God. And everyone who lives in genuine love can call God his Father, and convert the sinner from his ways. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Frank,
    God is love, and when we are saved, His love should be manifest through us, not only through our feelings and words, but our actual deeds and works of compassion and self-sacrifice. Sadly, our remaining sin nature often prevents us from showing the love of Christ, sometimes through fear of those who are different, and more often through selfishness or indifference. May we yield to the Spirit to let His love flow through us to others. Thanks as always for the excellent, Bible-based post.
    God bless,