Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can't See God for Christianity

Many questions toward atheists are equally unanswered for in Christianity. While I believe that God Himself answers them all, Christianity doesn't and somehow manages to sidestep the reality of such questions, or even worse, ostracises those within for asking them. I have first-hand experience with this.

A few typical questions asked of atheists by Christians are (and I've borrowed some from Suneal's post 'Openness Theology has Tea with Atheism'):

1) How do you place one value over and above another without the constant of God to arbitrate?

2) Why would you feel any inclination to defend or purpose or initiate anything? What would be the point?

3) What is the purpose of life to you? Why bother with anything, trying anything, most especially attempting civility and altruism? What benefit are these?

4) From where are derived such realities as justice, mercy, art, music, thought, charity, love, effort, ad nauseum things that Christians attribute to God's character...?

I could posit myriad *reasonable* (non-Christian-faith-based) responses to these questions, and I believe in the ultimate/eternal/everlasting Lordship and salvation of Christ. The point is that these questions alone will never be sufficient for pointing out error; I'm not even sure they *could* point out error.

I believe that all are created in the image of God; therefore, all are capable of acting in accordance with His image (at least some of the time) regardless of whether or not they choose to acknowledge Him. Asking an atheist to account for morality as if to corner him toward God misses his point at best, and misses God's point at worst.

I think there are definitely huge problems with atheism, but asking existential questions that the whole of humanity has and continues to struggle with camouflages the real problem.

Christians want to know why atheists can't see God. Christ told His disciples that the world would know God because of how the disciples loved one another. Since there is a greater love vacuum in the church than elsewhere (where we wouldn't *expect* to see it), how could *anybody* recognise God in the world?

Did Christ say that the world would know Him through the love of His disciples toward one another and if they don't love one another He would perform a great miracle to convince everyone anyway, so don't worry about it? Did He only mean that IF His disciples loved one another then obviously the world would be forced to recognise the One who IS that love? Or, did He mean this as He said it? That the world WOULD know Him BECAUSE of the love His disciples had for one another?

I think the questions atheism poses directly correlate to the lack of love in the church, which is why as we see an increasing absense of love amongst believers, we see an increasing frustration from those outside. They are crying out for what their souls need, and they cannot get it because we're supposed to be giving it to them, and in our own lack, we're not. We're not BEING the love that GOD IS in us!!! We have taken His 'talent' and buried it-- deep-- so deep that nobody can see it.

So essentially, unbelief is a *believer's* problem. If my children or my friends don't think they are loved, it is my neglect and lack of willingness to extend Christ's unconditional love through me toward them that has brought this about, even if I can point at reasons for my actions, even if I can point at how they weren't willing to receive it, even if... whatever; I'm judging THEM as though I were God, and not at all living the love of Christ, but rather living the judgment of the forbidden tree from which I think I can sustain myself, but which instead of feeding me is actually the source of my starvation, and theirs. Ultimately, I have to be willing to give love at all cost and unconditionally, and until I do, my questions or calls to account belong aimed at me.

The community of believers known as and who is the Body of Christ Himself has the much greater calling to truly and pragmatically LOVE than to bring unbelief to account, especially having contributed so much clanging to the 'cause.'

So let's get to it.

There is no sense in screaming in someone's face while slapping them on the cheeks, "WHY CAN'T YOU SEE HOW LOVED YOU ARE???!!!"

7 comments:

toshido said...

"1) How do you place one value over and above another without the constant of God to arbitrate?"

Society and cultural influences. Teachings from ancestors, starting with parents.
Values change over time as societies change. Even things as basic as the value of human life changes. It was not so long ago that one could buy another human being. I believe in certain parts of the world you can still do that, low key of course.

"2) Why would you feel any inclination to defend or purpose or initiate anything? What would be the point?"

To make life better. For yourself, your friends, your family and for strangers.
I do not need a deity to make me want to better my life or the life of somebody else.

"3) What is the purpose of life to you?"

Now as a parent to raise my children and do the best I can for them.
Before it was mostly to just get by.

"Why bother with anything, trying anything, most especially attempting civility and altruism?"

To improve life for people. Mine and others. Or maybe to just entertain, which in a way makes life better as well.
Why must I believe in a god to do that?

"What benefit are these?"

Happiness. Fulfillment. Personal satisfaction. Entertainment. The list could go on nearly as long as activities.

"4) From where are derived such realities as justice, mercy, art, music, thought, charity, love, effort, ad nauseum things that Christians attribute to God's character...?"

Necessity mostly. Justice is needed for a society to survive. Effort is needed to survive as well.
A desire to be happy. Would atribute things like music and art. even mercy. Charity as well can make on happy.
A need to belong. Would be a good reason for friendships and love.
Emotions are tough one though.
more purely scientific I think i once heard/read about chemical released by the brain triggered by love and other emotions. So you could say emotions are a purely biological response to stimuli.
But that is not a very satisfying answer to the origins of emotions.

Sarah said...

Toshido, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I just wanted to clarify though, that unlike many articles written on the subject of atheism with regard to Christianity, mine is specifically addressed to Christians for the purpose of showing that calling atheists to account for what they believe or don't believe is missing the point of Body life and the grace and love that God is.

I was by no means calling you to account. I hope that you didn't feel compelled to answer, but appreciate that you did anyway.

suneal said...

"A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

I am sure that aside from Jesus referring to all men knowing we would be discples of Christ, implying we would be glorifying Him as a result, He also meant that some of them would come to faith in Him.

I understand your sentiment Sarah, but see the job of faith as a miracle beyond us. Jesus also said in John 3 regarding this it is like the wind that blows, you don't know from where it comes or where it goes, so is one "born of God."

It seems Sarah you mentioned my post in a negative light, although Toshido did not even see that. So maybe also I see it wrong as well.

If you are in any way questioning my love for the Body, perhaps you should take this up with me either by phone or email.

I believe the Holy Spirit either through believers or by His own Presence brings accountability to all, believers and unbelievers in the form of conviction.

I am confused by your post, so will say no more for now in case I have misunderstood what you are really getting at. Lately, among all the posts and comments written I see many "contradictions," and certainly I don't want to get into a debate of showing all these inconsistencies. I would rather withdraw to solitude.

sarah said...

Suneal, my post was actually a response to my husband's fervent and passionate plea to atheists to see what they are missing. I simply credited you from your post because I used the essence of two of your questions and didn't want to come across as plagiarising.

:(

suneal said...

Wow, did I totally miss what you were saying? Sorry:(

Christopher said...

"A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35)."

Exactly. And this is what Sarah was saying is quite often missing. Thus the reason why it is more important to put love into practice than attempt clever retorts to unbelievers. Love convinces people despite the thrust of a well-formed argument.

"It seems Sarah you mentioned my post in a negative light, although Toshido did not even see that. So maybe also I see it wrong as well."

No, Sarah used your questions because they were fitting, and helped her illustrate her point: that apologetics to unbelievers doesn't fill in what's missing. Only vertical and horizontal love does that.

Her reference to your questions was because she found them helpful in forming her own point.

"If you are in any way questioning my love for the Body, perhaps you should take this up with me either by phone or email."

Why are you personalizing this? Sarah and I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. Sarah's post, even though it used your questions to help her point along, was about no-one in particular; it was a comment on the general state of Christendom.

"I believe the Holy Spirit either through believers or by His own Presence brings accountability to all, believers and unbelievers in the form of conviction."

Yep.

Christopher said...

Seems we posted at the same time, Suneal. You don't need to respond to my comments.

I'll leave them up for now incase they're of any use to anyone else.

Cheers!