Arguments from Atheists (and Answering Questions of Those Far From God)

“I am well aware that some (perhaps many) of those I have known and loved passed away without reconciling themselves to terms of sundry Christian teachings. What must be done of course varies from church to church, but in each case where the price of heaven is conversion, I know of specific people who failed to make that choice in terms described by one or all of these churches. Faced with the prospect of conversion and its benefits myself, I can honestly say that the choice strikes me as a betrayal.  Do I belong in this heaven, while my father does not? And will I enjoy paradise while others that I loved rot in graves, burn in eternal fires, or simply waste away in outer darkness?  If there is a God in heaven that would have this, then I will say ‘no’ to Him.  He is asking for too much.”
~ From a blog post by Daniel Wall// “Of Loyalties and Lords and Faith as a Horror Show”

Call me a traitor to my own faith, a fan of enlightened inclusivism, or whatever else floats your boat, but there are several very worthwhile, intelligent and informative blogs out there from some very devout atheists.  This excerpt is from one of them.  And, if Christ-followers were to strip away any innate prejudice–the immediate, knee-jerk reaction to call out the statements in this excerpt as just “wrong, wrong, wrong”–you would find held within are several enticing threads of inquiry to unravel.

I’ve spent the past year or so under the auspices of Spiritual Drift trying to discern, both for myself and the casual reader, the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’—the goals and misconceptions if you will—of faith and belief; most often through the holding up of other people’s words, thoughts and ideas as example.  However, this past holiday season provided me with several opportunities, I’d call them promptings from the Holy Spirit, to look in the mirror and see myself more through the eyes of the general populus.   What I have seen is, though one can point the finger at any number of people who irk us, I’m apparently just as capable of pissing others off as well.  (Can I get an “amen”, or at least a collective, “Duh!”)   I’ve often found the most consistent ways to do this are, a) to have an opinion; or, b) to raise questions of someone else’s opinion.

Any opinion….
Obama.. Gun control… The perfect cacao-to-sugar ratio of dark chocolate…

See… I’ve lost you already!

For me, I find it very stimulating to personal growth and understanding when I step beyond the fortified walls of my own faith to engage in discussion with those of differing religious views, or a-religious views.  (Politics? Not so much.)  Does this occasional meandering rattle my faith?  Absolutely not.  In fact, it helps solidify it; if for no other reason than in encouraging me to consult the Word–to learn, confirm, dispel, or clarify.  Look a little more deeply into the excerpt from Mr. Wall and you see he raises some very valid points for discussion.  Discussions we as believers should be readily available for, in order to engage and not simply dismiss.  I’m not talking about having all the answers, far from it.  What I am saying is that none of our answers should include, “You’re wrong!  And your mother smells of elderberries!”

With that in mind, rather than offer answers to Mr. Wall’s questions, I thought I might further include a few of my own.  To hold up a mirror if you will to our firm entrenchment in what we hold as Christian doctrine and belief; including my own.  To see what we see; and more importantly, to see what the world sees, both in and through us.

  • If we (believers in Christ) are the ‘church’, how are we best representing Jesus to an un-churched world?  (And is it okay to include references to Monty Python?)
  • Are we, with all our “sundry Christian teachings”, making it (the Gospel) harder than it needs to be?
  • In other words, are we getting in God’s way?
  • If choosing to believe the claims of Christ can “strike {one} as a betrayal” to family and friends–present and past–who may not have made that decision, could NOT choosing to pursue and/or believe for that reason be seen as a “betrayal” of future generations?
  • Can anyone truly know—know—who is, has been, or will be saved, and who is not?

5 thoughts on “Arguments from Atheists (and Answering Questions of Those Far From God)”

  1. You ask some excellent questions. (I claim to have no certain answers:) What I have figured out is that when we engange in complex theological and/or spiritual discussions it is extremely difficult to see the issue through the eyes and world view of the other. We don’t even realize all the assumptions we make in our thinking. No wonder we have such a hard time communicating. I don’t think our “sundry Christians teachings” make it hard, but the foundations of our understanding are incomprehensible for those who know nothing of the heart or purpose of God. Even those of us who have studied quite a lot know only a tiny spec of who God fully is, and even that is a little foggy. We’re probably wise to remain humble, willing to listen, and pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal himself as we do our best to understand what God has revealed.

  2. G’day Kent, they used to say the “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, but I never thought it was then end of wisdom.

    Same here. I think we should probably mistrust anyone who says they aren’t bothered by the Abraham-Isaac story, or some of the other OT stories. It should hit us in the face (or perhaps a little lower!). But our reaction is not the end of the story – what are we going to do with that reaction?

    Hitchens seemed to let his reaction be the end of the story, but if I did that, I’d have to ignore a lot of other good information. Life is a “mingled yarn, good and ill together”. Making a success of life (however we might measure that) requires us (I think) to work our how to come to terms with all of it.

    1. Good points sir, and good to hear from you again. I might have to use that “Life” quote in one of my Photo Friday posts…I really liked that.

  3. I hear a silent plea from Daniel Wall rather than a declaration of unbelief. I think he is begging someone to tell him that God would not allow his loved ones to burn for eternity or be consigned to outer darkness forever. Many times when people seem to be rejecting God, they are simply rejecting their misconceptions of Him. When I hear or read statements like Daniel’s, I feel great compassion. I also feel compassion for the ones who explode in anger against God. I think what they are really feeling is a gut-wrenching need for him and extreme frustration and pain that they can’t find him.

    I have a brother who died when he was 39. He lived a pretty rough and unhappy life—and yet I saw a lot of goodness in him and I understood many of the reasons why he made such sad choices. After his death I wrote a poem in remembrance of him and here is a portion of it: “The Reader of all hearts will weigh this soul with grace—trust in Him who abundantly heals more than we dream.”

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