I sat with friends in front of Ravi Zacharias this morning. The world-famous apologist/philosopher came to Cincinnati and delivered his trademark thoughts about atheism, faith, and the Biblical worldview. Somewhere in his lecture he mentioned hostility toward the faith. It’s no secret some people have crossed over from passive unbelief in God to active rage against Him. Where is the anger coming from?
A few writers have tried to assure us that the unbelievers’ problem is not with God Himself, just with His followers. Years back a guy named Dan Kimball wrote a book called They Like Jesus, but Not the Church. It was a nice gesture granting the benefit of the doubt to non-believers. They would maybe come to Jesus if only Christians would be more Christ-like. If only Christians weren’t so narrow, so ignorant, and so combative. Kimball didn’t say it, but sometimes I wonder if there’s a consensus that if there weren’t any Christians on earth, maybe people would have a better view of Jesus. They wouldn’t have to battle their way through legions of intolerance to get to Him. It would just be Him and them. Right about the moment I might be inclined to agree, I remember there was a time when the followers of Jesus weren’t a factor at all. It really was just Him and the rest of the world. Yet the world took Him and killed Him. The Romans pounded nails into Him, not into a religious organization.
The rage against God has a source in something other than the “flawed middleman” of the church. In order to address this issue (I said, “address,” not answer), I asked Thad & Greg, twenty-somethings, their opinions.
John: How about the excessive hostility toward biblical faith? Where is the anger coming from? It seems especially prevalent in your age group.
Greg: We’ll address the obvious one first. You always have to factor in the possibility of personal pain. Some people have been legitimately hurt/wronged by Christians or at least people using
the Christian label. I think we can all understand how it works when you link the evil some people do to the belief system they allege to operate under.
John: So in some cases, blame doesn’t trickle down—it trickles up.
Greg: Yes. We need honesty to admit it, too. Christians do themselves a disservice by saying that all of the hostility toward biblical faith is unwarranted. Peter spoke of gentleness and respect when dealing with those who don’t yet believe. Our responses at times, though, can be anything but gentle or respectful. Ultimately, God gets blamed
John: True, but what about anger not motivated out of personal pain? How should we see it then?
Greg: In that case, the outrage is coming from ideology, not personal involvement. People can become this way when standing on an issue so strongly that they’re primed to explode at whatever doesn’t agree with it—even the Bible. Sometimes the position is so powerfully held that it becomes self-contradictory. The whole idea of tolerance, for instance, commonly gets around to becoming the worst kind of intolerance. We are told to respect aberrant kinds of sexual behavior and the most eccentric forms of world religion, yet the same gurus of tolerance bitterly mock the Christian faith. Pride, elitism, and a misguided sense of right and wrong create a powerful self-contradiction that even intelligent people can’t perceive. As the whole thing becomes more entrenched, challenging it gets dangerous.
John: And yet the target of their anger ends up being something they don’t believe in.
Thad: It’s puzzling. If you believe in a Godless, meaningless world, religion shouldn’t bother you. After all, there is no judgment day. Yes, you might feel threatened if someone limits your personal freedom through power and influence, whether the tools used are religious, economic, or political. But does freedom as a virtue really exist? Atheists like Richard Dawkins say “nature really is red in tooth and claw,” and we’re all just dancing to the tune of our DNA. According to that thought, freedom and justice are an illusion anyway, so why obsess over it? At the end of the day, non-theists are upset with a deity they don’t believe in and wanting to protect gifts whose existence they deny as well.
To be Continued