Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Something Worth Dying For

So I’m lunching in my favourite cafĂ©.

You will forgive me for eavesdropping, I’m sure. If you’ve ever done the lunch thing in a major metropolis on a main street, you know that bodies are close together and overhearing one another is usually unavoidable.

Well, forgive me or don’t, but a group of five a few feet away are discussing a friend who, after all their best efforts to cure him, remains “religious”. Poor benighted fellow.

And I’m thinking … where does this come from, this compulsion to strip others of the comfort of faith?

Moral Non-Equivalency

Don’t equate it with Christian evangelism, please. Don’t go there. Christian evangelism, at its best at least, is the desire of one person whose life and eternal destiny has been irrevocably changed for the better to share that fantastic truth with another. It is an act of love.

Okay, maybe it doesn’t have to be love:
  • Witnessing can be an act of duty or worse, an act of guilt. Bad call. Deduct two points and send the subject for retraining. I’ve done it, and it’s not the highest motive.
  • Witnessing can be an act of brownie point collection: “Look, I tried to share the gospel. Yay me!” That’s not a common motive though, and I think we all recognize its inferiority.
  • Witnessing can be an act of pedantry: “I’ve got a worldview that is technically superior to yours, and I’m going to inflict it on you”. If you are a Christian with Asperger’s Syndrome this may be forgiven, no questions asked. Otherwise, I suspect repentance may be required.
Clay Jar With a Treasure Inside

But regardless of the motive, this one thing remains true about Christian evangelism: The evangelist is convinced that what he or she offers adds value to the human experience and, should it turn out to be true, unspeakable value in eternity. Even if the motive of any particular witness may happen to be horribly off-putting and obvious, even if the delivery and even the testimony itself is not what it should have been, even if love is notably absent and the messenger is pathetically self-involved, the fact is that what is being offered is a treasure beyond price. If the treasure comes in a clay jar, sorry, that’s just part of the deal.

We’ll try to do our job better tomorrow, I trust.

How Beautiful are the Feet …

And the message itself? The message is a glorious one. It explains everything. It accounts for that overactive conscience you try to suppress that tells you all is not right, not just with the world, but in your own life. But it also accounts for Hitler, Stalin and the $16.3 trillion U.S. national debt. It explains your inability to relate to your husband or wife at times. It accounts for the remarkable symmetry in living beings, including my cat. It explains war, oppression, poverty, misery and the desire for something higher than this that is hardwired in your heart. It provides a rationale for beauty, poetry and philosophy. Best of all, it announces the answer to sin and human need in the person of the Son of God.

Boom! Clarity.

It’s glorious. Hence the term “good news”, I suspect. Even those who ultimately reject it call the Christian faith “pie in the sky”. Why? Because pie is a good thing. Who doesn’t like pie? The whole point of the all-too-common metaphor is to complain of a false belief in something that is essentially GOOD.

Evangelical Atheism

But explain to me if you can whence arises the compelling need of those who are resolutely without God to correct the “religious” person in his error? How exactly does this activity make the world a better place? And what are you offering that might improve his lot?

How precisely does your friend’s church attendance hurt you? Did he miss a couple of great golf games? Perish forbid.

Imagine if you succeed in your quest to turn your friend from his erroneous convictions: what exactly have you accomplished?

The Price of Success

Let’s see: statistically, you’ve made him more stressed and anxious, more prone to chronic illness, more likely to die young, more likely to commit suicide, more likely to abuse drugs, and more likely to engage in the following: homosexuality, infidelity, drunkenness or viewing pornography. He’ll even be very slightly more likely to break the speed limit.

Congratulations. You win. Your friend, if he’s still around, will not thank you for it. The “truth” you have given him is that his molecules are random, his life is meaningless, hope is an illusion and on top of that, if he happens to be in his fifties like the gang at the table beside me, it’s all downhill from here.

Truth and Outcomes

Now of course I’m not suggesting for a second that the truth or falsehood of a belief system turns on whether its acceptance produces a positive or negative outcome in this life. Those who judged the truth of the words of Jesus Christ by the (apparent) outcome of his choices could make the argument that faith doesn’t always lead to pleasant places. As the onlookers at the cross said:
“He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.”
On the other hand, you could make the case that the Lord Jesus had something worth dying for.

Does atheism qualify?

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