Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Which God & what about Jesus?

I have just started reading God is not Great by the late Christopher Hitchens (we'll see if I finished it and write a review of it). The second chapter in this book opens with:
Imagine that you can perform a feat of which I am incapable. Imagine, in other words, that you can picture an infinitely benign and all-powerful creator, who conceived of you, then made and shaped you, brought you into the world he had made for you, and now supervises and cares for you even while you sleep. Imagine, further, that if you obey the rules and commandments that he has lovingly prescribed, you will qualify for an eternity of bliss and repose. I do not say that I envy you this belief (because to me it seems like the wish for a horrible form of benevolent and unalterable dictatorship), but I do have a sincere question. Why does such a belief not make its adherents happy? It must seem to them that they have come into possession of a marvelous secret, of the sort that they could cling to in moments of even the most extreme adversity.
To which I reply, Amen! R.C. Sproul has said a few times (here between the 24:20-25:05 mark and here between the 43:50-44:02 mark), that if this was the case, he would despair.

When calling God not great, it is probably best to work out which God you are making reference to, as they come in all sorts of shapes and flavours. To say that any and all god's are the same is to say that all paint is the same colour. If the above is a description of the God Hitchens doesn't like, then he is in good company with most reformed Christians.

I would have liked it if Hitchens in his book would have imagined a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty (Ex 34:6-7 repeated in: Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; Jonah 4:2; and Joel 2:13). Then maybe we might have disagreed on something...

Reading a bit further into this book I found more things that I say Amen to.

When dealing with harming children and the weak, Hitchens writes that "[t]he New Testament has Jesus informing us that one so guilty would be better off at the bottom of the sea, and with a millstone around his neck at that." Here he appeals to Jesus' standard (Matthew 18:5-6), and rightly so.

When dealing with end times nuts, Hitchens commends Abraham Davenport (who was a deacon at his local church for 30 years) for how he acted when people thought the final judgement was upon them:
The speaker of the assembly, Abraham Davenport, managed to keep his nerve and dignity. “Gentlemen,” he said, “either the Day of Judgment is here or it is not. If it is not, there is no occasion for alarm and lamentation. If it is, however, I wish to be found doing my duty. I move, therefore, that candles be brought.” In his own limited and superstitious day, this was the best that Mr. Davenport could do. Nonetheless, I second his motion.
Davenport is only acting out what Jesus tells him to do (Luke 12:35-40), and again rightly so.

So far, Hitchens and I seem to appeal to the same standard.

I wonder if Hitchens sees the tension between Jesus and religion? Do others? I wonder if this is why a spoken word youTube clip titled Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus gets over 17.7 million views in two weeks...


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