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Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category

Human Wisdom and God

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin maintained that “man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” He goes on to make this point: “Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God” (Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011], 1:108.)

Humans continue to rely upon themselves to determine who God is, and ordained ministers, it seems, want to remain in their positions even while denying that a personal God does, in fact, exist. Rather than creating God, ordained clergy may deconstruct God.

The United Church of Canada (UC) was formed in 1925 with the merger of four liberal denominations in that nation. One sees something of the theological location of the UC with the top blog post featured on its website: “Making a Pitch for Trans Awareness.” In other words, anything goes. Well, almost anything.

The Reverence Gretta Vosper may have gone too far even for the UC. According to the Canadian Press and reported in Canada’s CTV News online on June 30, “An avowed atheist fighting to keep her job as a United Church minister is now waiting to hear if a review panel will recommend she be defrocked for violating her ordination vows. In an appearance before the panel this week, Gretta Vosper defended her views, which include a lack of belief in God and the Bible.”

The UC professes to be a body of Christian, asks “new members to profess their faith in the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and to commit themselves to faithful conduct in the church and in the world,” according to the denomination’s website. Additionally, the church states: “As members of one body of Christ, we acknowledge our Reformation heritage and the teaching of the creeds of the ancient church, particularly the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds.”

But the words of Scripture and the truths of the Reformation and orthodox creeds evidently mean little to the church as a whole and even less to Rev. Vosper. The minister maintains that she does not believe in God in the traditional sense: “Were I to be given incontrovertible proof that a god does, or gods do, exist, the evidence of the cruel and capricious realities of disparity, tragedy, illness, and anguish in the world, and the truth that our world and our experience of it is wrapped not only in beauty but also in excruciating pain, would prevent me from worshipping it or pledging my allegiance to it.”

And so we have a minister who says that even if deity does exist, the bad things existing in the world would prevent her from worshiping this deity. I will give Rev. Vosper credit for saying what many ministers would like to say but fear the consequences. Unfortunately, Rev. Vosper has chosen the wrong side in this debate. Showing herself to be a fool (Psalm 14:1), she foolishly promotes the world’s wisdom and places herself in opposition to the God who has revealed himself through his creation, his Son, and his Word.

Rev. Vosper and all who deign to create deity in their own image or deconstruct deity according to their own “wisdom” will find themselves confronted by the very One they modify or deny: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:2–3 [ESV]). What the world lauds as noble will be revealed by God to be terminally foolish.

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April 1 is commonly known as April Fools’ Day, a day when pranksters delight in making others look foolish. A good time is had by all . . . with the exception of the ones on the receiving end of the pranks.

Being an April fool is one thing; being an eternal fool is another. We well know Psalm 14:1 (ESV): “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” We denounce the atheist, the one who denies that God exists, and we use this verse to justify our criticism of them.

Psalm 14:1, however, doesn’t merely have philosophical atheists in mind. Realistically, it has always been a very small percentage of humanity that denies the existence of a god or gods. The psalm points to a much larger group of fools.

In reality, all people are born fools. None understand. None “seek after God,” as Paul emphasizes in Romans 3:10. Left to ourselves, we flee from God. We in our fallenness are repulsed by God’s holiness. We flee the righteous, holy One. We are fools.

What is alarming, though, is that many who are concerned about the state of their eternal welfare remain fools. Frightened by the prospect of eternal judgment, they make a decision for Christ, perhaps walking an aisle or repeating the “sinner’s prayer.” Merely seeking an escape from hell, they fail to repent of what has separated them from God and fail to seek God himself through faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus. For many, Christianity is not about a God to pursue. It is about a place from which they flee.

Inside and outside of church are fools who in essence say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They live as though God does not exist. Psalm 10 illustrates this: “For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’” (10:3–4). This person “says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it’” (10:11).

Such a person does not deny that God exists. Philosophically, he believes in God. He may even get teary-eyed at a music concert when a rapturous and seemingly heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace” is performed. Day to day, however, reveals a life of practical atheism: “He says in his heart, ‘God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” His head may give a nod to God, but his heart reveals his true beliefs. Stephen Charnock [1628-1680] stated it well: “Men may have atheistical hearts without atheistical heads.”

There are plenty of deceitful politicians who say whatever is needed in order to get elected or pass legislation. There are people in business who cheat customers in order to increase their own personal wealth. People game the welfare system and others conspire with their bosses to get laid off so they can claim unemployment payments. Others engage in sin under the cloak of darkness or the privacy of their personal computers. “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” Such people are rightly denounced as practical atheists.

We ourselves need to face the question squarely, looking at ourselves rather than others. Do we gather with other believers on the Lord’s Day because that is what we are expected to do? Would we rather be at the beach or playing golf or fishing or hunting than in corporate worship? What about reading the Bible? What about praying? Do we truly desire God, or are we just trying to keep the peace with him while engaged in worldly pursuits? In spite of our

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Atheist “mega-churches”

From World Magazine (Nov. 13, 2013) by Warren Cole Smith:

Atheist megachurches. According to the Associated Press, atheist “megachurches” are springing up across the country, and they look a lot like Protestant megachurches: “rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection.” But, the article goes on to say, “The only thing missing was God.” About “three dozen” of these congregations have sprung up in the United States and Australia, and a British couple who founded the movement, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, are planning many more. Jones and Evans are touring cities in the United States hoping to raise $800,000 that will fund this “church” planting movement. Jones said the idea came to him when he attended an inspiring Christian church service: “There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in. If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people—and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?” He’s right, of course, which is why so many Protestant megachurches—such as Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston and Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte—are popular, despite resembling what sociologist Christian Smith calls “therapeutic, moralistic deism.”

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