Atheism

Dancing Stars

Nietzsche was, in my estimation, one of those brilliant atheists endowed with an extra dose of common grace. He once wrote in “Towards the Ubermensch,” that “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” Nietzsche understood that from within comes the issues of life.
 
What are we birthing? Are our ideas and actions a result of an uncontrolled chaos or a chaos under the control of the Spirit? The control of the Spirit causes us to journey from grace to grace, which then makes us into grace factories and not idol factories. Our idols within are challenged today the same way it was in Genesis one. Chaos is challenged by light. Light-givers confront the darkness. Nietzche’s dancing star was dim. We are the ones who can produce bright dancing stars. May our God shine upon us and may we praise him with dance (Ps. 150:4).

The Ascension of our Lord: A Brief Introduction

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord this Thursday. Since most churches are not able to have Thursday services, traditionally many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday.

The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. We make room for his birth, death, and resurrection, but we tend to put a period where God puts a comma.

If the resurrection was the beginning of Jesus’ enthronement, then the ascension is the establishment of his enthronement. The Ascension activates Christ’s victory in history. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension the call to baptize and disciple would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ enthronement at the right-hand of the Father, that we image-bearers can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power, not of weakness and shame. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory (Col. 3:1) This glory exhorts us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joy…and she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”[1]

But this joy is given to us by a bodily Lord.

We know that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is ruling and reigning from his heavenly throne. He has given the Father the kingdom, and now he is preserving, progressing, and perfecting his kingdom. He is bringing all things under subjection.

We know that when he was raised from the dead, Jesus was raised bodily. But Gnostic thinking would have us assume that since Jesus is in heaven he longer needs a physical body. But the same Father who raised Jesus physically, also has his Son sitting beside him in a physical body.  As one author observed:

Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity.[1]

Our Lord is in his incarnation body at the right hand of the Father. This has all sorts of implications for us in worship. We are worshipping a God/Man; one who descended in human flesh and who ascended in human flesh. He is not a disembodied spirit. He is truly God and truly man.

As we consider and celebrate the Ascension of our blessed Lord, remember that you are worshiping the One who understands your needs, because he has a body just like you; he understands your joy because he has a body just like you.

[1] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased

[2] Gerrit Dawson, see http://apologus.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/ascension-and-jesus-humanity/

The Increasing Boldness of Atheism in the Academic World

Atheism has become increasingly bold in her declarations and actions over the years. The atheist star, Madylin O’ Hair, who thrived with her vicious condemnation of Biblical Christianity in the 70’s and 80’s has birthed a new generation of God-hating disciples. College professors in public universities have learned that the classroom is the best place for a non-religious experience. 

An example of this comes from Florida Atlantic University who contrived the following exercise:

‘The assignment called for students to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper, put the paper on the ground, and stomp on it.”

A halfhearted apology was issued and now classes can continue with their daily scheduled de-christianization hour. The professor does not claim to be an atheist, but with friend like these. Former Governor Mike Huckabee “questioned if any program at FAU would have allowed “Muhammad” to be written on the paper and stomped instead.” When they reach that fearless pinnacle, I will write another piece.

My point here is not just that education cannot be neutral– that is too obvious– but that public education no longer masquerades her neutrality. There was a time when government curriculum attempted to deny their anti-theistic direction, but that time is past. This is the time when atheists can declare their loss of fear publicly and unashamedly.

Much like the homosexual community is becoming more and more comfortable coming out of the philosophical and theological closet, atheists today put on a robe and march to their pulpits with their well-scripted homilies. These pastors of the dead are not only situated in the comfortable chairs of the academic halls of well-funded state universities, they also sneak into the high-school curricula with a fancy diversity library card. For an example of this, here is the latest fearless atheistic move:

The California Department of Education has revised the statewide recommended reading list for its 6.3 million K-12 students, adding roughly 40 titles focused on homosexuality or gender confusion.

One example will suffice:

The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson. “Since childhood, the Bermudez Triangle consisted of Nina, Avery, and Melanie. But when Nina leaves for a summer-school program, all three experience changes in the way they view each other. The three teenage girls explore the meaning of friendship and love while trying to keep long-distance relationships intact. Avery and Melanie begin to understand their homosexuality, and Nina feels left out. This novel illustrates the stresses, jealousy, and anxiety of teenage girls trying to understand themselves as they mature.”

If this is not sufficient to detail the loss of fear in the anti-Christian establishment, media, and the country’s education system, then nothing will convince the reader. “These are just isolated examples,” some may argue. If so, their PR team is performing a stupendous job.

I understand that Richard Dawkin’s atheist camp is not drawing the masses, but can we assert at the very least that atheism is losing its fear? As their platforms increase their hunger for converts becomes insatiable. They want our children and they want them now.

As pietistic Christians become more and more fearful of the world around them, non-Christians continually gain intellectual ground. As the Easter Season approaches, we need to be reminded once again that the tomb is empty and the world is filled with the glory of the risen Christ. Let us not fear. Our faith is not in vain.

Saturday Night Live (SNL), DJesus Uncrossed, the Romans, the Jews and the God of the Bible

DJesus UnCrossed is SNL’s latest attempt to de-christ Christ. Of course, in our day, Jesus is easy to disrespect. One wonders if SNL would attempt a comedy journey through the life of Muhammad. No further comments needed.

David Flowers believes that the skit has something to teach us, and that we should begin to listen to our critics. He argues that the skit has hermeneutical problems, but that it shows our hypocrisy and inconsistency in our faith. Flowers argues that this is the result of an American-shaped Jesus. He is correct to assert that humor has a way of offending Christians and revealing weaknesses and hypocrisy. We should be aware of them.

The Jesus raised from the dead murdering Romans out of revenge seems bizarre in light of the biblical narrative. Flowers is correct to assert that it reveals the Jesus kick-ass motif portrayed by many in our evangelical culture. It is easy to object to the video’s false portrayals, but in what sense is this skit true, even with its exaggerative and faulty hermeneutics? There is something to be learned here. Flowers is correct that we are to listen to our critics. The point, however, is that our critics don’t go far enough.

Surely the 2nd Amendment Rights’ Jesus is very American and Neo-Conservative like. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the type of justice-driven Messiah we as Orthodox Christians believe.

For starters, we believe in a Messiah that is ascended to the right hand of the Father, and from that place of kingship rules and reigns over us and creation. He is not an unmoved Mover. Further, Jesus did not have the Romans in mind when He judged, He had the corrupt and idolatrous first century Jewish generation in mind. Upon them, He brought a profound tribulation (Mt. 24). The Gospel Lesson this Sunday is Luke 13:31-35 where Jesus laments over Jerusalem. He sought her with love, but she continued to kill and murder the prophets sent with a message of salvation and deliverance. The vengeful Jesus portrayed by SNL has no interest in context, but it should well observe that the Messiah who destroys is first the Messiah who shows mercy.

How Can we Learn from SNL?

First, Saturday Night Live is not a theology show. Its humor is devoid of accuracy, and frankly, that is not their interest. They have been on the air for 37 years because of their exaggerated (especially in the last ten years) view of current events. This is important to keep in mind.

Secondly, use these opportunities to correct false information. Bill Maher, the well-known HBO atheist host, does this better than anyone I know. He takes a portion of Scriptures and twists its meaning in a fashion that would make even the devil jealous. This is a good time for Christians to be hermeneutically savvy. In fact, go ahead and make a t-shirt with that slogan “I am hermeneutically savvy.”

Thirdly, do not allow an exclusively New Covenant narrative to shape your theology. As James Jordan observes: “The division of the Bible into “Old Testament” and “New Testament” is merely for convenience, for the Scriptures are one narrative from beginning to end.” It is important to note also that this one narrative portrays God as a God of justice who says all vengeance belongs to Him. The modern Marcionites have failed us just as much as SNL has.

Finally, remember that the life of Jesus–especially as we meditate upon it in this Lenten Season–is a life of cross before glory; suffering before resurrection. The Jesus that came out of the grave was first a Jesus that came riding on a donkey as the Prince of Peace. But that same Jesus has promised to come again riding a horse of judgment upon Jerusalem and upon all those who despise His Name.

What Evidence?

Fr. Longenecker poses a dilemma to the commonly asked atheistic question:

The most frequently asked question by atheists who come to this blog is “What evidence do you have for the existence of God?” My reply is always to ask what sort of evidence they require, but not one of them has ever given me a straight answer. My question is an honest one. What sort of evidence would someone be looking for if they wanted evidence for God? I ask this because there are many things in life that we know exist, or whose existence we accept without question for which there is evidence, but the evidence is not of a scientific nature. I’m thinking of Love, Beauty and Truth for example. These virtues are very real, and the evidence for them is solid, but someone who wished to ‘prove’ their existence to a doubter would be hard pressed.

Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist

A post by Melinda Penner in 2005 reminded me of the great responsibility pastors have to project and express a biblical view of life and the world. According to a 2005 study:

Most religious youth couldn’t coherently express their beliefs and how it is different from other faiths. Their view of God is “something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist” who solves their problems. And the most troubling finding is that religious teens don’t believe there are theological objective truths; effectively they are pluralists.

What is the cause of such naivete? The Church has certainly failed to educate their youth when their youth were only little babes (Psalm 22:9). Undoubtedly there is a parental blame in the picture. Parents need to equip early on. They need to fulfill their duties (Ephesians 6). At the same time, what is the modern Church offering their youth? Pizza parties? Pep talks about modern movie trivia?

The Church is losing her youth, though her youth may still be attending the Church. It won’t be long before they become Church corpses–offering little to nothing to the life and sanctification of the Church body–or completely abandon the pews and run to Richard Dawkins for nurture.

The Death of Christopher Hitchens and Kim Jong Il

Bill Maher tweeted most accurately that this was a bad weekend for atheism. Atheism lost two radically different voices. Radical in that one was an atheist determined to eradicate and brutalize his own people and the other seeking to challenge the Christian claim through ideas. One murdered, the other intellectualized.

But at the end, assuming they had no change of heart, both will suffer the same end (John 3:36). While there is no sympathy for the death of the North Korean dictator, many–even Christians–are grieving over Christopher Hitchens. The reason they grieve–rightly to a certain extent–is that everyone of us at some point had hope that Christopher would see the decay of his body as a sign of the decay of his soul.

Kim Jong Il boasted in his power, while Christopher boasted of his intellect. These are two different sides of atheism, but both representative of atheism nevertheless.

The Death of Christopher Hitchens

The avowed atheist, Christopher Hitchens, finally ended his “battle” with cancer. Hitchens died today at the age of 62.

Doug Wilson concludes concerning Hitchens:

We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right.

Modernism=Atheism

Resurrection as Proof

Douglas Wilson interacted with Christopher Hitches on a number of occasion leading ultimately to this documentary. Over at this blog in 2009 he spent some time adding to his interactions. Here is an example:

Christopher said somewhere that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. This is quite true, but Christopher misses the point of it. He thinks the resurrection is the extraordinary claim, when actually it is the extraordinary proof. You should not listen to a man who claims to be God (the extraordinary claim) unless He does something like come back from the dead. The resurrection is God’s declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), and when we preach the resurrection, as we are charged to do, we are preaching the proof, not something that needs to be proven. God adds to the proof by anointing all such faithful preaching with His power, testifying to the testimony. It is the power of the Spirit that will convert the world by this means.