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Monday, January 25, 2016

Quote of the Day (15)

Sometimes you get the neatest quotes from the fertile minds of the writers of crime fiction:

“It’s pretty arrogant, calling all other gods, apart from the one you’ve come up with, idols. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Every dictator’s command to his subjects, of course. The funny thing was that Christians couldn’t see it themselves, they didn’t see the mechanism, the regenerative, self-fulfilling, self-aggrandising aspect which meant that a superstition like this could survive for two thousand years, and in which the key — salvation — was restricted to those who were fortunate enough to have been born in a space of time which was a merest blink in the eye of human history, and who also happened to live on the only little bit of the planet that ever got to hear the commandment and were able to formulate an opinion about the concise sales pitch (‘paradise?’).”
— Jo Nesbo, Midnight Sun

Nesbo’s character is wrong about two huge truths here, and both are worth thinking about.

The internal monologue nicely sums up much of what I’ve observed to be the modern European attitude toward Christianity in that it is simultaneously smug and splendidly misinformed.

First, he tells us that salvation has been historically and geographically “restricted” to a very small segment of the human population. That’s terribly wrong.

Historical Salvation

The message of the Bible is that salvation has been available since the Fall of Mankind. Few of the ancient saints in their day were aware of the specific mechanism by which God was accomplishing their salvation, but it was no less a reality for having been seen as general and hazy truth rather than a series of witnessed historical facts attested and documented for our benefit.

Abel didn’t have a concordance or a King James Version of the Bible. So what? I have no doubt we will see Abel in heaven. He was one of the people of old that “received their commendation”:
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.”
That he did it in anticipation of the sacrifice of Christ rather than in response to it is irrelevant. That he did it with very limited knowledge of the specifics of Jesus life, death and resurrection, or of the blessings of Christian living, is even more irrelevant. He found favor with God and that is all that matters — to us, and especially to him.

Historically, Nesbo’s statement is balderdash.

Geographic Testimony

Geographically, it is equally nonsensical. The message of salvation has gone out into all the world, but it did so long before the historical Jesus ever appeared on the scene. Thanks to a couple of captivities, in which the Israelites and Jews were dispersed throughout the empires of their day, we read that by New Testament times:
“From ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
In context, it is evident that James says this not about the cities of Judea, but about the Gentile cities of the world of his day. Thus Philip could run into an Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza on his way back home who happened to be reading a scroll of the book of Isaiah in his chariot to pass the time.

And what are we to do with historical figures like Melchizedek king of Salem, who was “priest of the Most High God”? He certainly missed the memo that “salvation is of the Jews”. Somehow God got his message into Canaan long before his chosen people ever possessed the land.

Again, the message such individuals conveyed was blurry and indistinct compared to what we are able to enjoy today, but it was sufficient to save anyone who brought faith to the equation. We will only know how many have been declared righteous in the eyes of God through such testimony when we meet them in the Father’s house of “many mansions”.

A Merest Blink in Human History

Secondly, Nesbo’s implication is that because the specific message about Christ came comparatively late in human history, it has therefore failed to be available to the vast majority of men and women who have ever lived.

This too is spectacularly false, because he (or his character) can’t do math.

While we cannot say with any certainty that the seven billion people currently walking our planet outnumber all the dead in human history, depending on the assumptions you begin with, Scientific American concedes the number is not all that far off.

Carl Haub points out that:
“Any estimate of the total number of people who have ever been born will depend basically on two factors: the length of time humans are thought to have been on Earth and the average size of the human population at different periods.”
Even if that history is assumed to be 50,000 years long and the Genesis flood is dismissed from consideration, those who have had a chance to hear the message of Christ well outnumber those who have not. The people walking the planet today alone comprise at least 6.5% of Earth’s total all-time population, even when we concede all the requisite uniformitarian assumptions we know as believers to be untrue.

And if we assume (as I do) a biblical chronology and the historicity of the Flood, the vast majority of those who have lived on planet Earth have had a chance not just to know God from nature, myth, rumor or conscience, but to have the New Testament message of salvation explicitly presented to them during the course of their lives. Carl Haub’s world population graph broken down by year makes this fact exceedingly clear (Haub is not a Christian, just a well-respected demographer).

That’s no mere “blink in human history”.

The Fairness of God

God is not just fair, he is excruciatingly fair. People like Jo Nesbo who dismiss Christianity can only do so because they understand what it is. The message has reached them, but they have consciously and deliberately chosen to dismiss it.

That tells us as much about the fairness of God and the plausibility of his message as I ever need to know.

1 comment :

  1. All thinking persons have to deal with the issues presented to modern man with regard to evolution, biblical history, the human condition, war between good and evil, material, mental, spiritual imperfection and constant damage, the apparent absence of a caring God that some claim exists, others are not interested in and merely think of as a bad idea. How to make sense out of all that? To me, the primary lesson from history, current public, and my own private, affairs, is simply that the most compelling reason for the existence of God is the evident existence of Good and Evil and the coping skills we are taught concerning that through Christianity. An unbiased examination will show them to be the ONLY truly eternally functional and working coping skills available to humanity to deal with the Good/Evil problem (and it is for that reason they are therefore often copied but, because of bias, without acknowledging the source).

    Those who engage in that type of bias fail to realize, or acknowledge, that God, evidently, will never come down, sit across the table from them and perform magic tricks (their thinking) or take them on a tour of outer space without a space suit on, in order to convince them that it's really him. Anyhow, he knows that they would think that he could perhaps simply be a powerful space alien from some distant planet or dimension who has billions of years of evolution ahead of us. They will also not concede that God might consider that to be the wrong approach and that his premise instead is faith. So, how can you prove to anyone God exists and that he is relevant? It would seem to be a futile endeavor to try and overcome such bias in a person and the simple reason is that they don't WANT to be convinced for purely multifaceted personal reasons with the main one being that they don't want to be inconvenienced. Because, if they where honest, they would simply find out by asking, or discover on their own from the Bible, that God provided a concrete way to find him. Of course, that's where the inconvenience comes in, namely, starting the process of forming a personal, one on one, relationship with him through the biblically suggested methods (prayer, faith, fidelity, reform, etc.) and accepting guidance and strength coming from that relationship and also from the faithful. Now, all of that is too hard, of course, and too easy to dismiss and so the unfair and unjust griping continues ad infinitum.