So, after my appearance on the podcast Dogma Debate, I saw this tweet:
Of course, the commenter thought that she was merely being cute, but this is a fairly common objection raised by the average internet atheist who doesn’t understand the difference of their hand from a hole in the ground. Not to mention that the statement is an insult to actual abused people everywhere.
This objection—in this particular instance—stems from the fact that Christians embrace the sovereignty of God in the salvation of a particular people, as well as the reprobation of others into the consequences of sin. If you listened to the podcast, you undoubtedly heard me chastising David over the fact that, at the beginning of God’s interactions with humans in the Garden, that God established a system by which the choices man makes have real consequences that aren’t brought into reality until a person activates them. In that, God controls both the means (the options that are available to choose from) and the ends of those choices (the real consequences of choices), both positive and negative. This exercise of God’s sovereignty, means that human beings are actively participating in the unfolding of time towards its designated finale. These choices are often circumscribed by the two descriptors of obedience and disobedience. In the end though, as the conversation revealed, it comes down to the fact that humans rarely obey God directly and, in so doing, incur the wrath of God, seen in the ultimate reality of Hell.
Let’s be honest: Hell and and the concepts associated with it are unpleasant to think of, and we often avoid talking about it for that reason. But it is real and necessary to speak of, just as a warning. One of the points that must—let me repeat that—must be kept in mind that each and every one of us, apart from the grace of God, is destined for Hell and it is something that we rightfully deserve because we are wicked sinners. What makes heaven truly—well—heaven is that it is where God is and the fullness of his goodness and grace is present. Conversely, what makes Hell—well—hell is the fact that none of that is there.
Anywho…if you listened to our discussion on the podcast, the point that I made and attempted to drive home was that, in our present state, we exist in a state of possibilities. Now, at this present moment, we exist in a place where there are options. Our loyalties can be divided, our choices are open, we are in training for the day when possibilities turn into reality, when the results of all of our choices in life finally reveals itself. It’s then, when our eyes close on the possible and open to the reality that we will finally know what it is that we have been working towards. Did we build a house on a firm foundation, or on something less than firm? Did we gather in the things that are subject to corruption and destruction, or did we collect the incorruptible?
Now, some will argue that you cannot know until that final day of reckoning, and I tend to agree. We are easily deluded by what we want to be true. The unbeliever who wants to believe that they can have what is the good and true and beautiful only in the here and now are begging the question of, how do they know what those things are?
The believer who has placed his trust, not in his own ability and effort, but has placed them in the One Who Has Overcome the World, he seeks to know him and so pursues him wholeheartedly. So he disciplines himself by beating his body into submission and bringing his thoughts as captives to be presented to his king as a tribute, doing so because that One has made known what is true and good and beautiful and, more importantly, where those things can be found.
The unbeliever cannot fathom that someone would be so loyal to someone who demands so much, namely trust and obedience. Yet, they contradict themselves whenever they object to someone who would not do as they ask. They cannot comprehend how the Eternal One could not suffer to have someone who does not love him in his presence, while at the same time they do not desire to be in that presence.
The atheist wants to equate this intense relationship to that an abused wife who has yet to awaken to the reality of their situation. The Christian can simply turn this argument around that the atheist are the one trapped in a relationship of abuse. They are the one who has laid down and decided to take it. They are the one who has been mastered by sin, rather than fleeing into the arms of the Man who loved them so much that he gave his life for them. That is why the call goes out, must go out, the echoing call that we repeat, “Come unto Christ and find rest.” “Take up your cross and follow him.” “Trust in Him whom Christ believed in.”
The Christian, fully convinced because of God’s goodness and mercy that has been demonstrated in Christ Jesus and bestowed through the work of the Spirit, recognizes the multiplicity of the analogies used by the authors of Scripture and recognizes that they are true. So we train like the athlete, and run the race. We work in the field like the farmer, seeking to bring about an abundant harvest. And we fight like a soldier in a war, fighting against ourselves and our desires that seek to overthrow us. Every single one of these analogies involve struggle and hardship necessary to achieve their respective goals. So, we train like athletes because, at the end of the race, we desire to see our Heavenly Father. We labor like the farmer, because the harvest is abundant in the righteousness of Christ. And we fight with determination, because the Spirit is at our side. Christians aren’t abused any more than a wife who works hard to make her house a home for her husband, because he works hard to provide for his family. Her gratitude for his labor erupts in unselfish devotion, because he proves his love for her by giving of himself.
The atheist, on the other hand, has to delude themselves to paint the emptiness and futility of their position, like the abused wife who blames herself for her place in life.
[If] the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or rea- son in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
-Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, pp 132-3.