I love God. There’s no doubt about that. It is because He has deeply loved me and proven it over and over and over again. I know what grace IS like and FEELS like. I have personally experienced it and have grown to experience it more throughout my Christian life. Love itself becomes overwhelming as the nature of the supply begs the belief in a supplier.
But, there are countless millions who are not convinced. They haven’t been inside the house of faith, viewing the world through the presence and eyes of the Spirit of God. They have not become intimately acquainted with Jesus as the lover of their souls. They’re still trying to figure out whether there is such a thing as eternity or sin or redemption. Maybe their mind is already made up by committed disbelief. I’m not just talking about the people who have never given Jesus a second thought. I’m talking, now, about people who have given the matters very serious thoughts. In fact, the more they think about it, the angrier or more cynical they become. The name of Jesus conjures a visceral reaction in them. They cannot fathom how rational people could possibly believe such archaic and crude things about a world that cannot be seen and a God who is unseen and unable to be questioned face to face.
There is a growing anti-god community in the U.S. and around the world that spends much time refining and sharing their thoughts on matters in opposition to faith. I have spoken with more than a few in recent years. I have blogged and e-chatted with even more. A new term that is used by many has reflected a shift in climate and acceptability of their anti-god resolve. Many of this mindset prefer the term “bright” to atheist.” Atheist is a negative term, about what is NOT believed. Bright is a positive term inferring liberation from the stranglehold of irrational belief. Some hold glowingly to the title, inferring that religious belief at its core is intellectually naïve, uninformed or dishonest.
However, as I frequently engage in the discussion or debate on religious matters, one non-sequitur in the argument continues to plague the discussion. It goes something like this. “There cannot be a God because science has disproved the notion of god and anthropology has confirmed that suspicion by the testimony of evolved religious ideas that are enculturated in control and social pressure.” Then, when pushed on competing or contradicting evidences or ideas from an intellectual posture, which are many and that may lead one to different conclusions, the argument shifts. It generally follows something along this line. “What kind of God would hold people in fear of damnation, endorse the endless stream of wars in his name and offer people who are otherwise cruel and inhumane a free pass to heaven simply by praying a quick prayer of forgiveness? If God is real and powerful and loving as the Bible suggests, why do we see the evil that is so prevalent today without him seemingly willing to lift his omnipotent finger to change things? Doesn’t that make him the cruelest of cruel- to possess power and refuse to use it for good?”
I could go on and on with the nuances of the argument. Sometimes the discussion takes different turns. But, the shift is almost mind boggling when you get to the end of the discussion. It almost always starts with “there is no God” and ends with “because if there were, he wouldn’t do things this way.” It purports a scientific, logical basis but results in anger toward the what they think of God, which may or may not be true. These are two separate arguments. At least they should be. The first argument insists that there can be no god(s) based upon reason. The other suggests there must not be a god, based upon emotion. The first uses an objective rationale. The other is steeped in subjective frustration. The first is making an argument for disbelief. The other is giving a testimony of personal reasons for disbelief. The first calmly argues from reason. But, if challenged, the calm gives way to froth.
I often wonder if the second “reason” is not steering the first “rationale.” In other words, the main thing is not what it appears to be. But, it is understandable to begin the argument that way. After all, it would seem a little disingenuous to begin with personal opinion and try to end up with fact. The cat is already out of the bag. Hence, most people with Darwin stickers on their car have no idea about the severe impact that their childrens’ deaths, especially Annie’s death at 10 years old, impacted his wife Emma’s faith and brought him to some of his weighted conclusions. Somehow, people have made Darwin’s conclusions purely rationally based, devoid of personal context. History contradicts that, however. So the rational seems to make the power of the emotion a diminished factor.
The weight of the argument makes more sense to reverse the order of emotion to reason that so powerfully affects the argument- begin with incontrovertible fact (if there is such a thing) and then air opinion of disappointment or anger toward any contrary or competing belief. In other words, crush opposing views with the mind and then relax back into the emotion of it all- a tirade of rancor toward a God who should not be believed in rather than could not be reasonably believed in.
I often wonder if the “facts of the case” might not be radically different if they were not so heavily tainted with the “disappointment with or disdain toward the possibility” of God. I have often thought that it is very difficult to argue a case when there is so much emotional commitment to the conclusion before the argument begins. My prayer is often, “God, don’t let an arsenal of facts be built on the basis of emotion, anger or heartfelt disappointment. Instead, let the hurt flow alongside an openness to the possibility of an answer.”
Your best option in dealing with someone “raging with reason” is to put the argument down and prayerfully ask God to convict, convince and convert. Trust me. You cannot calm the raging rationale. But, God can.