Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Gathering Storm

‘The fool says in his heart, "There is no God.’
-Psalm 14:1

“That God does not exist, I cannot deny, That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget.”
-Jean-Paul Sartre

“There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty. Ever renewing its memory, he repeatedly sheds fresh drops. Since, therefore, men one and all perceive that there is a God and that he is their Maker, they are condemned by their own testimony because they have failed to honor him and consecrate their lives to his will.”
-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, chapter 3, section 1

“Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."”
- John 20:29

Recently I’ve been intrigued by the writing and lectures of a few outspoken atheists, particularly Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion). Both men are brilliant, with Hitchens being a prolific journalist and Dawkins being an evolutionary scientist. Their withering criticisms seem directly aimed at Christianity, but Hitchens’ view of religion in general is thus, “…all religious belief is sinister and infantile.”
[1] Both Hitchens and Dawkins often use ad hominem attack and take aim directly at anyone who resists the “enlightenment” of atheism. I have to admit that at times their perception of the Christian faith and much in evangelicalism is sobering. These men are gaining an increasing hearing and are growing in their influence. My suspicion is that their outspokenness will eventually make its way to the church and our families and it should not surprise us. Hitchens and Dawkins will likely become the spokesmen for a new generation of antagonism towards Christianity. Like a gathering storm there are dark clouds on the horizon. As I’ve thought about it there are a few helpful things for me to remember –

1) Even in their vehement opposition to Christianity and their vitriol against God both Hitchens and Dawkins are not without an internal witness to the existence of God. God has squarely stamped the knowledge of Himself in their unregenerate hearts, so that even they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-21).

2) Neither Hitchens or Dawkins are beyond the reach of the gospel. I remember reading about the late-life recalcitrance of atheist philosophers Antony Flew
[2] and Jean Paul Sartre[3]. The immanence of death has a way of cutting through the fog of academic arrogance. Perhaps God will be merciful to either or both Hitchens and Dawkins.

3) Significant opposition to the Christian faith should come as no surprise. In a recent article on John Piper’s web site there is an exposition of Matthew 10:16-31 and in it he makes this statement, “Jesus died in our place so that we might escape the wrath of God, not the wrath of man. He was called to suffer for the sake of propitiation; we are called to suffer for the sake of propagation.”
[4] We should expect resistance to the gospel. It will always be foolishness to those who do not believe.

4) We must be wise in how we carry ourselves as Christians. We must not let our behavior (and not the offense of the gospel) serve as a stumbling block for people’s belief in the Savior. We must be disciples whose lives are characterized by sacrifice, love, obedience and humility.

As we plant this church we should expect resistance from every quarter. We should expect vigorous opposition from our relationships within, from outsiders, and from every conceivable source. Satan and his minions will not be pleased that another gospel witness is on display in Vancouver, Washington. And even in the vortex of opposition we should take great comfort in the assurance that we are not alone in our endeavors. Christ has promised to be with us until the end (Matthew 28:20).

Grateful for truth and the promise of Christ’s presence, Dan

[3] “Revelations du philosophe catholique Jean Guitton” Paris Match, cited by John Woodbridge in The Mark of Jesus

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